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Trends begin to surface as overlay plan meetings continue

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image Residents go over maps displayed by Hillsborough County planners that show what an overlay of the U.S. 41 corridor on an 8-mile stretch south of Big Bend Road would cover and hopefully accomplish. Penny Fletcher Photo

"This is the time to show your preference" in proposed Ruskin / Apollo Beach zoning overlay.

By Penny Fletcher

RUSKIN -- The third of seven public meetings to address what should be in a proposed zoning overlay district along U.S. 41 in Ruskin and Apollo Beach dealt with results of on-line surveys and opinions of the committee members who signed up at a meeting in July.

Aug. 25, Jose Fernandez, project manager, and John Healey, county planner, brought survey results and maps showing what other overlay districts in Hillsborough County had accomplished.

An overlay district is a development area that establishes standards over and above the county’s zoning regulations.

As was reported in The Observer News and Riverview Current in July, the proposed overlay area consists of an 8-mile north-south stretch of properties bordering U.S. 41 extending from Big Bend Road to the Little Manatee River Bridge in south Ruskin.

“Because U.S. 41 in Ruskin and Apollo Beach are so completely different, with the Apollo Beach area more like a corridor, and Ruskin a main street, they should be treated separately,” Fernandez said.

Although there is still plenty of time for property owners and other interested residents to make suggestions and give input on the plan some basic trends have already come forth during the first meetings and on-line survey.

The survey was available from July 19 to Aug. 22 and was answered by 61 people. The graph passed out at the meeting shows that most people identified themselves as residents and not as those who owned property bordering the highway.

“We mailed out more than 400 notices to property owners before the original Open House held in May when we began this process,” said Healey. “But just a handful show up.”

This is the time to show your preference, he advised.

Things that showed high interest in both the surveys and meetings concerning Apollo Beach were landscaping, buffers and setbacks, fencing, open storage, building location and design, and signs.

Photographs of Brandon’s State Road 60 before and after an overlay was put into place were shown as an example of how these things can be improved using an overlay.

In Ruskin, there was more interest in the “uniqueness” of buildings, both in preservation of old buildings and style and design of any new ones built.

Preservation of Old Florida Style was high on the Ruskin list, but as Michael Peterson pointed out, “What that means to one person is not what it means to another.”

While St. Augustine, Arcadia and Key West all are known for “Old Florida Style” architecture, they’re all completely different,” Healey said.

Since there is already a Downtown Committee working on a plan for Ruskin, and there is also a Historic Resource Committee, there is a danger if we do not get some clarity, Peterson stated.

Healey pointed out that these things would be addressed as the plan moves forward.

“Right now, we are just trying to get the issues down that we want to address,” said Fernandez. “We will be taking on those issues at a later time.”

The next meeting, which will take place at the South Shore Library on Sept. 29 at 6 p.m., will address “visual preferences” that came out of the survey and previous meetings.

Then recommendations will be dealt with at a public meeting Oct. 25, preceding another Open House Nov. 15 (all at 6 p.m. at the library unless changed later) after which the language of the overlay will be drafted, Fernandez said.

Then there will be a final public meeting before the overlay plan is sent to be voted on by County Commissioners.

Fernandez explained that a lot of things people were asking to be addressed cannot be addressed in an overlay. And others cannot be addressed by anyone other than staff at the Florida Department of Transportation because U.S. 41 is a state road, governed by FDOT.

Anyone can join in the planning process by attending the next meeting.

Meanwhile, all details, plans and meeting highlights are available on the Web at http://www.hillsboroughcounty.org/pgm/zoning/cpiongoing/us41.cfm.

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