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Families opt out of zoning project

Ten Citrus Park homeowners have defected from the proposed master plan. Others may join them.

By JOSH ZIMMER, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 30, 2002

CITRUS PARK -- Some property owners are so disenchanted with the proposed Citrus Park Village Master Plan that they want to be excluded from it.

Ten homeowners on Beatty Grove Drive already have succeeded. Others are talking with the Department of Planning and Growth Management about joining the defectors.

Despite the grumblings, the department does not seem overly concerned about the plan's future. After more than a year of discussion with residents, planners hope to present the concept to the Hillsborough County Commission for approval later this year.

The plan would rezone the entire area for a variety of residential and commercial uses.

Project manager Mike Reynolds said he thinks people simply don't understand the plan's goals and potential ripple effects. Opponents, who fear the plan would encourage overdevelopment, have raised fears about increased taxes because of different zoning.

"I will try talking with those who asked to be removed to try to get them as much information as possible," Reynolds said.

Although the department didn't fight Beatty Grove residents, Reynolds said he is not sure whether others have the legal right to demand being left out. He hasn't discussed the issue with the County Attorney's Office, he said.

Leslie Horton, who helped put together Beatty Grove's petition, is one of the plan's biggest opponents. Under the proposal, the residential area would have been rezoned for 20 units per acre from one unit per acre.

While pleased with the county's decision, she said homeowners are angry the department did not also remove the two commercial corner properties off Gunn Highway. Reynolds said the owners of those properties asked to remain in the plan.

In addition to Horton and her neighbors, others are rethinking their participation.

Donna Vaughn, who owns two tracts on Spivey Drive, wrote a letter to Planning and Growth saying she wants to be left out of the plan. She could not be reached for comment.

Citrus Park Nursery co-owner Carol Spurr said she doesn't want her property, a 5-acre tract just south of S Mobley Road, to be zoned for 20 units per acre. The area off Gunn already is too developed for residential use and she said she fears that higher-density zoning would make the property less attractive to a buyer.

In talks this week, planners agreed to change the wording to allow for nurseries, she said. While that would give her and her husband the option of selling the business to another nursery, it still may not be enough.

"I would support the plan if I could get my zoning changed," she said. "They're going to look at it and see if they can work with me or not. People don't want to live next to commercial ministorage and a gas station. It doesn't make sense."

She said she'd prefer to see the property zoned for small professional office and retail use.

Another concern is taxes. However, Deputy Chief Property Appraiser Warren Weathers said that homesteaded residents, such as Horton, and people living on mixed uses, such as Spurr, probably would not face a tax hit because of the rezoning.

By state law, taxes on homesteaded properties cannot rise more than 3 percent every year unless the property is sold. At that point, the assessment increases to market value.

"You don't have much to worry about" with a homestead exemption, Weathers said.

Spurr could also qualify for a greenbelt exemption that further lowers her taxes, he said.

If the plan works, property owners actually would benefit in the long run from a general rise in property values, he said, citing Tampa's Hyde Park and Seminole Heights.

"If I were either of those property owners, I would want to be in that plan," Weathers said. "If the plan works the way it should ... somebody will say ... I want to buy into that."

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