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Residents fight proposed super-store on Bloomingdale Avenue

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image Hundreds of residents are expected to turn out Monday, June 10 when County Commissioner Al Higginbotham hosts a “listening session” with residents at the Brandon Recreation Center, 502 E. Sadie St. in Brandon.

The prospect of a store like Target or Sam’s Club on a roadway that’s already notorious for morning and afternoon traffic backups has locals fuming.

By KEVIN BRADY

Stirring passions like few issues have in recent years, a proposal for a huge Super Walmart-size store on Bloomingdale Avenue is pitting homeowners against local government.

Hundreds are expected to turn out Monday, June 10 when County Commissioner Al Higginbotham hosts a “listening session” with residents on the issue at the Brandon Recreation Center, 502 E. Sadie St. in Brandon.

The prospect of a store like Target or Sam’s Club on a roadway that’s already notorious for morning and afternoon traffic backups has locals fuming.

“There is no demand for this type of retail in the area,” said Dawn McGovern whose online petition against the project has already collected more than 1,100 signatures. “There are already three Walmarts within a 5-mile radius of the proposed building site. We have an overabundance of already developed, vacant real estate from failed grocery chains that could be re-designed into a Walmart instead of developing on the scarce amount of vacant land still left in this area.”

The proposed store will also “increase traffic delays and accidents” as well as decrease property values and hurt small businesses in the area, McGovern said.

The company’s preliminary site plan calls for a 158,800-square-foot shopping center, three restaurants, a bank and another 6,000-square-foot retail center. Blueprints call for one entrance to the shopping center on Lithia Pinecrest with two on Bloomingdale, one of which, at Blowing Oak Street, would have a traffic light. The plan, which met the requirements in the County’s Land Development Code, was approved February 28.

The 43-acre plot at the corner of Lithia Pinecrest Road and Bloomingdale Avenue is zoned for mixed use development, which would allow a large retail store. The owner of the property, Redstone Properties, need only meet state and federal guidelines for the project and pay for any traffic mitigation measures — turning lanes, traffic lights — to gain the necessary permits for work to begin.

“There’s just no way the roads can handle this,” said George May, president of the Bloomingdale Homeowners Association. The group is sending out a survey to 5,000 homeowners this month asking their opinion on the issue.

While the proposed store and 261 new apartments will only pour more vehicles onto already congested roads, “bear in mind that this is also a truck route,” said May, warning the traffic situation may be even worse than some imagine.

While many want the county commission to stop the project, any commission-led effort to delay the shopping center will only lead to lawsuits, warn county staff.

“The site development process is governed by the Hillsborough County Land Development Code which establishes it as an administrative review and approval process that does not include any role for the (county commission),” according to an April letter from the county attorney addressing the issue. “Any attempt by the commission to insert itself into this decision-making process would have the potential to create significant liability for the county and should be avoided.”

Despite the warnings, residents are demanding commissioners address the issue.

“This project is proverbial commercial cancer being foisted upon us. The voters in this community elected you to serve the public needs and demands, and I am at a loss to understand how this planned construction improves this community,” said members of the Consolidated Active Neighborhood Development Organization (CAN-DO) in a form letter sent to commissioners.

Residents could be forgiven for feeling blindsided by the project.

In 2011, development regulations in the Land Development Code were revised, allowing for mixed use development on the site. Although notice of the change was posted in the Tampa Tribune, no signs were posted in the area informing residents about the proposal. The changes required two hearings before the county commission and a vote of the planning commission. Both approved the change.

“I don’t like the way this was approved,” May said. “From the way I understand it, it was done in an underhanded way.”

Locals have more than enough similar stores in the area, said Diane Masiello.

“Within a 10-minute drive from this exact intersection you can reach two separate Walmarts, one on Bloomingdale and Bell Shoals and one on State Road 60. Within a 10-minute drive there are also two Publix stores and a Walmart Market, which just sells food. We are blessed with wonderful establishments that cater to our needs for food, clothing and sundries. We do not need any more places to buy things.”

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