By KEVIN BRADY
Cue the theme song from Rocky.
The developer may think it’s over. The county may think it’s over.
But for those opposing a superstore in their backyard the fight is far from over.
The owner of the 43-acre plot, Redstone Properties, plans a 154,000-square-feet shopping center and 261 apartments on the property at Bloomingdale and Lithia Pinecrest Road. Redstone isn’t saying which retailer will take up residence in the massive store but residents believe a Super Walmart is most likely, given the design for the building which features an outdoor gardening center grocery vestibule.
Blueprints also 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.
“Our Steering committee is moving forward with action plans,” according to a statement from Coordinated Active Neighborhoods Development Organization (CAN-DO), a local group that has mobilized homeowners against the project.
The group is awaiting the developer’s final filing of development plans for the project and planned a community meeting Sept. 9 at the Bloomingdale Regional Library to discuss their next move.
“We have met with legal counsel and an expert in land zoning. Contrary to those who have said it is too late and it is a done deal, we have found a strategy that needs to be pursued. We will be reaching out to folks who have indicated an interest in working with the steering committee.”
Home to some of Brandon’s most exclusive neighborhoods and expensive homes, locals fear they will end up with a 24-hour Super Walmart on the site, something the area doesn’t need, they say.
The proposed development, which will neighbor Bloomingdale Regional Library and Bloomingdale High School, will not only depress property values but also add to traffic in an area notorious for bumper-to-bumper congestion during the morning and afternoon rush hour, say residents.
“Do we really need a big box store next to a high school? It is the safety of our children that will be affected,’ said Valrico’s Kimberly Hunt. “Many of the high school students walk down the road to the YMCA after school and there is already a big box store just 3 miles down the road.”
The developer and representatives of CAN-DO met June 28 but were unable to resolve their differences over the project.
Addressing concerns over increased traffic in the area, Redstone representatives said the company would be paying a portion of any roadway improvements associated with the development.
“It’s pretty obvious to everyone that whatever they pay will not help with the traffic,” said Dan Grant, a member of CAN-DO. “We appreciate that they met with us but we didn’t walk away with anything new. We are now looking at all the options we have including legal (challenges),” Grant said.
The meeting came after the county attorney told commissioners they risked a lawsuit if they tried to delay the project.
An online survey conducted by CAN-DO last month found traffic is the top issue for locals with 60 percent citing it as their primary concern. Concerns over crime and quality of life came a distant second and third in the survey.
“This (store) will make already horrendous traffic even worse and further endanger the students who walk to Bloomingdale High School,” said Cheryl Hinzdil, a 15-year resident of the area. “I really don’t feel like watching my property value go down even more that it already has, plus I rather enjoy living in a community with little crime. We have everything we need in the area and don’t need yet another ‘big box’ store, especially since we have numerous ‘super-centers’ within 5 miles”
The developer’s plan for the property, which meet the requirements of the county’s Land Development Code, was approved Feb. 28; however, commissioners said that plan called for a development more akin to Riverview’s Winthrop Town Centre, not a shopping center dominated by a super store like Walmart. Winthrop has been praised for its pedestrian-friendly design and mix of commercial and civic uses with the large anchor store, Publix, sharing frontage with smaller specialty stores.