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Commission turns down village proposal

The plan, which called for a mix of estate houses and office buildings, was opposed by residents and county planners who did not want to set a precedent with the offices.

By BILL COATS, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 28, 2003

LUTZ -- A pivotal zoning change along U.S. 41 generated nearly an hour of debate among planners and Lutz residents, but scarcely a minute of discussion by Hillsborough County Commissioners, who defeated it 7-0.

Relying tightly on land-use laws, the commissioners killed a proposal for seven estate houses and four country-style office buildings off Lake Kell, just south of the Pasco County Line.

Consequently, the property owners plan to promptly develop the property under the current all-residential zoning, which allows up to 25 half-acre lots.

"It may be 20, 22 or 15," said Dara Khoyi, co-owner of the 26-acre property with real estate agents Bob and Elizabeth Kelly. "Whatever it is, I will never come back before this board and subject myself to the unreasonableness that we just encountered."

Khoyi and the Kellys had proposed a village that, in many ways, embodied the dream of Lutz civic activists for preserving a small-town way of life. Both partners intended to move their own jobs into the office buildings on the U.S. 41 side of the property and to live next door, in large-lot homes on the Lake Kell side.

But land-use rules governing most of Lutz allow offices only at intersections or on sections of U.S. 41 already commercialized. The Khoyi/Kelly property fits neither requirement.

That fact prompted an unbroken line of county planners to reject the plan. And neighbors opposed the threat of an office precedent along a mostly undeveloped stretch of road now zoned residential.

"Once a zoning begins to change, there's a domino effect," complained Tom Knaus, whose family has owned property immediately to the south since 1899.

"If you make an exception now, you'll find you'll be doing it again down the road," Rosemary Burger, who lives on the opposite shore of Kell, warned commissioners before Tuesday's vote.

The developers argued the property was uniquely eligible for such an exception. It was zoned for homes when U.S. 41 had only two lanes. Now, it has lots hugging a six-lane highway, and new rules in Lutz discourage the types of subdivision walls that could shield the houses from the traffic.

But Martin Smith, a zoning judge who reviewed the request, said the property is suitable for homes. Its 800-foot depth allows space for trees and distance between houses and the highway, he wrote. Khoyi and Kelly still can develop fewer, larger lots, Smith said.

-- Bill Coats can be reached at (813) 269-5309 or .

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