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Week in review

By Times staff
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 30, 2002

K-BAR DEAL PROGRESSES: The Tampa City Council officially began the process of annexing the 2,280-acre K-Bar Ranch into the city Thursday in what would be the largest land acquisition in Mayor Dick Greco's term. If annexed, K-Bar Ranch, which borders the Pasco County line, would extend the city limits farther north than ever before.

Negotiations are centering on the number of homes that will be built and the amount of land that will be turned over to the city for parks and schools.

The owners, Krusen-Douglas Partnership, originally envisioned K-Bar as a 2,500-acre property with 3,600 homes. Representatives for both sides had more recently been talking about building 1,599 homes, but Ron Rotella, special consultant to the mayor, said the final total will be slightly fewer than 2,000 homes.

Plans to annex K-Bar, once a working ranch, into the city limits have been a possibility since 2000. It is a voluntary annexation, meaning K-Bar owners want to be part of Tampa. The City Council will take up the issue as early as July 11.

The K-Bar property includes land north of Heritage Isles, south of County Line Road and west of Morris Bridge Road.

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SHAKE-UP IN COUNTY PLANNING: In a major personnel shakeup at one of the county's biggest bureaucracies this week, the director of the Department of Planning and Growth Management was asked to resign and an assistant county administrator was demoted. Director Sue Adams confirmed Wednesday that she was asked to resign from her top spot Monday in a meeting with Deputy County Administrator Pat Bean. Assistant County Administrator Tony Shoemaker, who oversaw Adams' department, said he met Monday morning with County Administrator Dan Kleman and accepted a demotion to the Department of Management and Budget.

Planning and Growth Management is a powerful office with multiple divisions and dozens of employees. By wielding control over what projects get built, where they are built and how, the department affects jobs and the quality of life of people throughout the county.

Because of its development role, Planning and Growth also comes under frequent criticism from people who say the department promotes too much building as well as those, among them developers, who say the office is too restrictive.

Adams and Shoemaker said they were not given detailed reasons for being pushed aside. Since being hired to lead Planning and Growth in March 1999, Adams has received high performance reviews, all from Shoemaker, for her $102,419 job.

A planner most of her career, Adams said she helped bring improvements in two major areas: integrating three formerly independent departments into Planning and Growth and moving the community planning process from concept to reality.

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VICKI ROBINSON REMEMBERED: Vicki Robinson's friends have found a productive way to keep her memory alive in the four years since the Carrollwood mother was killed by her teenage daughter and her daughter's friends. By forming a nonprofit corporation and holding fundraisers, they are reaching out to parents of troubled teens. "It's a way to make good out of the evil that was done to someone we love deeply," said Ed Philips, a close friend of Vicki Robinson's.

Vicki Robinson was stabbed to death by Valessa, her 15-year-old daughter, and two of Valessa's friends. Valessa was convicted in April 2000 of third-degree murder and is now serving a 20-year sentence. Valessa's boyfriend, Adam Davis, who dealt the fatal blows, was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. Their friend and accomplice, Jon Whispel, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and is serving 25 years.

About a dozen of Robinson's friends decided to incorporate and formed the nonprofit Vicki Lyn Foundation. The 3-year-old foundation has held Valentine's dances, silent auctions and golf tournaments, raising about $8,000, Philips said. Part of that money helped establish a Web site, www.vickirobinson.com, which features a state-by-state guide of support groups and residential treatment centers nationwide.

The site also offers advice to parents about dealing with troubled teens and includes stories from parents and from troubled teens.

A silent auction and $30-a-plate fundraising dinner are planned Aug. 3 at the Rusty Pelican Restaurant on Rocky Point.

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PROPANE EXPLOSION IN TAMPA PALMS: The 51-year-old truck driver injured in a propane gas explosion in Tampa Palms on Monday was recovering in Tampa General Hospital. Dennis Schmotzer, a delivery driver with Northside Propane, was filling two tanks Monday afternoon when the leaking gas ignited and exploded. Schmotzer was called a hero by fire officials for thinking to move his truck down the street and away from the flames. The homeowner was not hurt in the blaze. Her poodle, Rousseau, died.

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COUNTY COMMISSION CONTINUES TO QUESTION GATES: A Tampa surveyor's experience, denied access to a gated subdivision with public roads, has prompted the Hillsborough County Commission to examine the agreements that made the gates possible. The commission last week gave the County Attorney's Office 60 days to determine whether these agreements are legal. "We're talking about public roads that taxpayers build," said Commissioner Jan Platt, who opposes such deals.

Since 1995, the commission has signed agreements with four developments allowing residents to install gates at those entrances, even though taxpayers pay for the upkeep of the roads. In exchange, anyone is guaranteed free access to the roads and neighborhoods. But guards hired to supervise the gates regularly question visitors about who they are visiting and why.

Henry Echezabal, the surveyor denied access to Keystone Manors/Keystone Crossings in March, is questioning their legality, saying the commission is violating Florida law while ignoring a state Attorney General's ruling from 1990. Echezabal claims the gates prey on people's concerns about crime when, in fact, people are not required to reveal anything. "I'd like to see a sheriff's deputy stop me on a public right of way and give me a ticket for trespassing," he said.

The other agreements are with Bay Port Colony south of Town 'N Country and Heritage Harbor and Crystal Lakes Manor in Lutz.

Commissioner Jim Norman, who represents most of these communities, defended the agreements as an attempt to deter crime.

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