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Possible sale of church's land troubles neighbors

Published March 15, 2007


TAMPA - A church in the Tampa Palms neighborhood of North Tampa is exploring a land sale that has some residents concerned, and one that local Community Development District officials say might be illegal.

The Grace Episcopal Church, at 15102 Amberly Drive, "has entered into an agreement" to sell a roughly 5-acre plot of land adjacent to its building to a developer, CDD consultant Maggie Wilson said Wednesday.

However, a piece of that plot belongs to the CDD, part of 3 acres of wetlands deeded to the church in 1996 to give it enough setback to build to the edge of the property it owned, Wilson said.

The terms of the deed give the CDD the right to take back the wetlands if the church uses it for another purpose, she said.

The prospective buyer, Boos Development Group, plans to build a shopping center, pharmacy or bank branch on the property, Wilson added at a CDD meeting Wednesday.

Residents have successfully opposed retail development before. In 1998, they defeated an attempt to build a 24-hour Walgreens pharmacy, citing the potential for increased traffic and a use incompatible with the comprehensive plan.

But some are worried that if the plan is approved despite the reclamation of the CDD-owned land, which makes up a fraction of the parcel, residents won't show the same unity.

"I don't see the same degree of enthusiasm to protect our community as those of us who were pioneers," said Ann Bartlett, who has lived in Tampa Palms for 19 years. "There's a lot of apathy out there."

If the church decides to proceed, they will have to get the land's zoning changed from church and school only, a move that Tampa Palms Owners' Association president Bill Edwards said he would oppose.

"Why should Tampa Palms agree to this very significant rezoning?" he said. "So far I cannot answer my own question."

[Last modified March 15, 2007, 06:19:20]

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