By KEVIN BRADY
South Shore, Sept. 4 2040: “Construction continues this week on adding a 10th lane to both sides of I-75 in an attempt to reduce the two-hour commute to Tampa Bay for workers who have flocked to the new 50-story apartment blocks going up in Gibsonton and Riverview. In other news, President Kim Kardashian and vice president Honey Boo Boo will be in Sun City Center today promoting their new reality show, “I am the president, get me out of here.”
While little can be done about a future “Kim-Boo” White House – like hurricanes or really bad gas, they are an unstoppable force – local planners hope they can do something about future development.
With 600,000 new residents (on top of the current 1.3 million) and, it’s hoped, 400,000 new jobs coming to the county by 2040 the time is now to start planning, according to Melissa Zornitta, assistant executive director of the Hillsborough County Planning Commission.
“South County has the potential to accommodate additional growth,” said Zornitta. “There are a lot of choices about how we grow.”
Imagine 2040, a countywide survey of residents’ attitudes and ideas for future growth, is about starting that discussion of those choices now. An online survey, found at Planhillsborough.org, has already drawn more than 500 responses.
Future development “poses a number of challenges for our area but we are talking about the lives of our children and grandchildren here,” Zornitta told an audience of 30 locals at ShoreShore Regional Library last week. The group, which is open to anyone with a serious interest in the future growth of South County, plans to meet monthly until next June to discuss different aspects of future development.
The meeting is one of several planned throughout the county aimed at coming up with ideas on everything from new roadways to preserving the area’s cultural and historical resources and economic development.
And new ideas are needed, according to the Planning Commission, which is teaming up with the Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organization for Transportation to update the county’s long range growth strategy.
While many areas, including South Shore and Brandon, already have their own long-term community growth plans, Imagine 2040 will complement rather than supersede those plans, according to county officials.
South Shore’s community growth plan was developed in 2003. The plan covers 384 square miles and is located south of Bloomingdale Avenue, east of Tampa Bay, north of the Manatee County line and west of Polk County. The monthly meetings at the SouthShore Library will seek to update this plan and, in the process, contribute to the county’s overall strategy for growth. Individual community plans have also been adopted for Ruskin, Riverview, Apollo Beach, Gibsonton, Wimauma, Sun City Center, Little Manatee South and Balm.
“The individual community plans help us be more specific for each community’s needs,” Zornitta said.
And while each community has its own character and different needs, the big picture is that the area cannot continue growing the same way if it is to accommodate future growth, according to county officials.
Continuing with our current suburban-style neighborhoods, the county only has room for 67,000 new homes or about one third of the expected growth. Today, the Bay area ranks sixth in traffic congestion and first in pedestrian fatality rates, according to Imagine 2040.
Among the different approaches discussed at the meeting were:
Suburban Dream: New homes and businesses spread out around the county.
Bustling Metro: Fill vacant lots and revitalize older areas around rapid transit stations.
New Corporate Centers: Business campuses and housing grow along interstate highways.
While each approach has pluses and minuses, the truth is the final outcome will be a mixture of several ideas, Zornitta said.
“No one of these scenarios is the right one. In the end we will likely come up with a hybrid of these. But the more input we get the better.”
Planning Commission representatives are also available to talk to any large community or homeowners group in South Shore about Imagine 2040.
For information, call (813) 273-3774.