By LINDA CHION KENNEY
The first “commercial rezoning of significance” for a plan that addresses the growth and historical and agricultural roots of the Wimauma community involves a self-contained mini-warehouse storage facility proposed for the southeast corner of State Road 674 and West Lake Drive.
That’s the word from Gil Martinez, an urban planner with a master’s degree, whose roughly 20 years in the business includes the past two as director of economic development and planning for the Wimauma Community Development Corporation (CDC).
“This is our first commercial rezoning of significance in the Wimauma Downtown Overlay District, and it sets a terrible precedent,” Martinez said. “Wimauma has to be ever-vigilant to hold officials accountable to both the intent and spirit of the Wimauma Neighborhood Village Plan.”
Working in collaboration with Enterprising Latinas, Hispanic Services Council, Redlands Christian Migrant Association and Beth-El Farmworkers Ministry, the Wimauma CDC orchestrated the partnership with county officials to secure the Wimauma Neighborhood Village Plan. Its passage in December 2021 precluded the lifting of a moratorium on development in the area that had been put on hold throughout the plan’s development.
Now, as Martinez sees it, it’s the work of the Wimauma CDC and its 11-member Wimauma Community Activation Task Force along with residents, businesses and partnering organizations to ensure the intent and spirit of the plan is more than just words on paper.
That’s where the proposed commercial self-storage facility comes into play, Martinez said, in an interview March 6, one day before the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners was scheduled to vote on a planned development (PD) rezoning for the three acres proposed for the facility.
“The Wimuama CDC along with members of the community and our partnership organizations will be expressing our opposition for the project as presented, as it fails to live up to the intent, the goals and the spirit of the Wimauma Village Neighborhood Plan,” Martinez said. “Basically, you have three acres of land at an intersection that is the gateway for a redevelopment district, and self-storage is what you call economic development? Is that what you call consistency with the plan? Absolutely not.
“Perhaps plan consistency could be achieved with ground-level spaces reserved for economic stimulating purposes, as called for in the community plan, such as a laundromat, bank and retail and office spaces, but that is not the case, nor is it being considered by the developer, even after we made the suggestion,” Martinez said. “So now it’s a discussion about the wasted opportunity and the disregard for the goals and objectives outlined in the Wimauma Neighborhood Village Plan and the need to set a precedent for this and future development proposals.”
As reported, the Wimauma Neighborhood Village Plan focuses on health, equity, resilience and sustainability as it celebrates Wimauma’s agricultural heritage, rural natural resources, local businesses, cultural legacy and small-town character. The plan consists of nine goals aimed to “enhance community character, promote the development of a town center, promote economic development, establish design standards, protect and enhance the environment, enhance the safety of the community, improve the transportation system and develop trail and sidewalk connectivity.”
The neighborhood plan breaks Wimauma into three key areas, including that for subdivisions, such as Vista Palms, Sereno, Southshore Bay and Valencia Lakes, and that for farmlands, which reach out to Fort Lonesome, County Road 39 and Manatee County. Also in the mix is “original Wimauma,” now known as the Wimauma Downtown Overlay District, which includes the intersection of West Lake Drive and State Road 674.
For more information, contact Gil Martinez at email@example.com/.