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Property's utility plan draws opposition

Two county commissioners temporarily block a plan for utilities at a shopping center site.

By BILL COATS, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 12, 2003

LUTZ -- It was meant to be enacted into law without comment, in a list of 82 items before the Hillsborough County Commission.

But to a pair of commissioners, and later the president of the Lutz Civic Association, it seemed to contradict a basic tenet of county land-use law: that growth is to be directed away from rural areas, partly by discouraging the spread of water and sewer lines there.

So the commissioners temporarily blocked a proposal to allow a property owner immediately south of the Hillsborough-Pasco county line to arrange water and sewer service from Pasco County.

"If water lines begin to run in there," said Commissioner Pat Frank, "what does that do to our rural service boundary?"

The proposal may affect only one piece of property, a future shopping center better known as the key to straightening out a misaligned intersection at County Line Road, Livingston Avenue and Collier Parkway.

But Denise Layne, the Civic Association president, wasn't so sure.

"The whole entire north Hillsborough boundary is being opened to development to satisfy one guy," she complained.

The guy is Tampa's Jack Greenslade. In 1989, he obtained a rezoning for a 110,000-square-foot shopping center at the southeast corner of County Line and Livingston.

That was a few years before the current policy on rural utilities was embraced.

County commissioners approved conditions to the rezoning that required Greenslade to connect the shopping center to Hillsborough County water and sewer lines. But if such connections weren't available, they provided, the property owner may connect to Pasco utilities.

No such agreement would be approved today, said Lorraine Duffy, planning manager for the Hillsborough Planning Commission. But the 1989 rezoning gave Greenslade a right that can't be denied him, she said.

So Greenslade is arranging Pasco utility service. To accommodate that, Pasco County drafted an agreement in which Hillsborough would buy Greenslade's service from Pasco and resell it to Greenslade, or the property's future owner, as a typical Hillsborough utility customer.

That agreement was on Wednesday's consent agenda for County Commission approval. But it was pulled off that agenda by Frank and Commissioner Kathy Castor. It's scheduled to be taken up again at 11 a.m. Tuesday.

Castor also cited the rural service area.

"I'm very concerned if we're carving out exceptions," she said.

Would this be the only exception?

Duffy, who helped evaluate Greenslade's rezoning and nearly every one since, can't remember a similar concession being made to any other landowner. Neither can Paula Harvey, the county's zoning administrator.

Harvey said staffers would work before Tuesday to tighten the language in the deal, to link it more exclusively to the Greenslade tract.

"It's not intended for it to open the door to other types of urban development in the rural area, which is what I think the commissioners want to avoid," Harvey said.

Layne wants to go further.

"I plan to be down there Tuesday to stop this," she said. "This is absolutely wrong."

-- Bill Coats can be reached at (813) 269-5309 or coats@sptimes.com .

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