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Man-made plans intrude on 'spectacular view'

A developer has begun a secluded eight-home subdivision, exercising a right he has had since 1979.

By TIM GRANT, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published October 27, 2002


CARROLLWOOD -- Linda Zalkin said she bought her home in Carrollwood Village because of its natural waterfront view.

From her back yard, she sees moss-covered cypress trees towering above Stillwater Lake and countless egrets, owls, ducks and raccoons that make their homes in the undeveloped wetlands between Stall Road and Dale Mabry Highway.

"I wanted a peaceful and beautiful scenic view," Mrs. Zalkin said.

The unspoiled woods she has enjoyed for 13 years will soon become an upscale housing development. Zalkin and her neighbors were unaware of the project until they recently saw a sign on Dale Mabry Highway just south of Stall Road advertising eight luxurious home sites practically in their back yards.

The homes will be built on 4 acres of uplands in the middle of 24 acres of wetlands.

Developer John Blaeser, whose family owns Carrollwood Country Club, has begun knocking down cypress and oak trees in the wetlands for an access road to the secluded eight-home subdivision that will be called the Enclave.

Blaeser could not be reached for comment, but county officials said he has zoning approval for the project -- which was obtained in 1979, said County Commissioner Jim Norman.

A Times reporter was unable to locate county records on the rezoning.

"The citizens who lived there all these years thought this was never to be touched, and that is what caused the uproar," Norman said.

Norman said the Blaesers own 24 acres in that area; 20 are wetlands. The developer obtained a permit from the county Environmental Protection Commission to build an access road through the wetlands to reach the 4-acre uplands.

The only requirement for building the road is that Blaeser will have to move the wetlands he disturbs to another area on his nearby golf course in Carrollwood Village.

"It was a done deal," Norman said. "There was nothing the Board of County Commissioners could do. They had the right to build on their property and have access to their property."

The property Blaeser will develop is accessed by traveling west on Stall Road. He is building a road that will run behind Zalkin's home on Stillwater Terrace Drive.

About 20 Carrollwood Village residents and 10 county officials attended a meeting Oct. 9 at Zalkin's house to discuss ways to stop the project. They said their main concern was the environmental impact of flooding and the displacement of wildlife.

"This area was flooded once," said Stan Cotzen, a neighbor. "There was a drain placed there to prevent future floods, and that drain has been clogged up by the bulldozers.

"We've been very frustrated in that we got the impression from the county that all the documents have been approved and there is nothing we can do."

Norman said the county officials at the meeting explained how flooding would be prevented, and that current homeowners might not even be able to see the new homes.

Craig Mahlman, a manager at Hillsborough County Planning and Growth Management, said the permitting process began in September 2001. In September 2002, he got a permit enabling him to build a road and install water and sewer lines.

"Right now they are clearing for the road," Mahlman said, adding that Blaeser began clearing the land about two weeks ago.

"They've always had development rights since 1979," Mahlman said. "Now they are exercising those rights. We had that same conversation with the residents."

Still, Zalkin cannot help but feel the project was slipped through the system behind the residents' backs. It's no consolation to her that Blaeser will create new wetlands on his golf course when the development will still displace wildlife.

"All these 10 county officials were at my house raving about my spectacular view," Zalkin said. "It was like them rubbing salt in my wounds. I won't have this view anymore. Now I'll be looking at these people's homes."

-- Tim Grant can be reached at 269-5311 or at rant@sptimes.com .

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