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Plan to close County Line Road uncorks anger

By CHUIN-WEI YAP
Published March 20, 2007


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LUTZ - As officials pointed fingers at each other, one message was clear Monday: County Line Road is still open.

Residents were infuriated when they learned last week that a 1,500-foot stretch of County Line Road, between N Dale Mabry Highway and Deer Lake Road, was to be blocked for three months, starting Monday.

The closure was meant to help Target Corp. rebuild the road as part of its ongoing construction of a new store just to the north in Pasco County.

It was the last straw for residents already angered by the project's disruption to their neighborhood.

County Line Road has also been a popular shortcut for Wesley Chapel and New Tampa commuters to get to Dale Mabry Highway and the Veterans Expressway.

On Monday, Hillsborough officials said the road won't be closed after all.

The developer still has not paid the $350 fee or given a seven-day advance public notice to get a permit to close the road, said John Newton, who heads Hillsborough's transportation maintenance division.

Newton acknowledged the public had been told of the road closing last week. He blamed it on Hillsborough's communications department.

"I don't know why they would do that, because they know the developers haven't paid the fee," Newton said.

Steve Valdez, Hillsborough's communications director, did not reply to a call for comment Monday.

Even if the developers pay the fee today, a Hillsborough County commissioner said the county's permitting officials are still going to re-examine the closure request.

"Transportation permitting has gotten the message loud and clear," Rose Ferlita said. "I don't care if they pay the fee. Until we know (the closure) is what we want to do, the permit is on hold."

On Thursday, Hillsborough officials briefed more than 60 neighbors on Target's construction plans.

"These people are just livid," said Gary Boggess, who lives on Deer Lake Road. "County Line Road is our only access out of here. It's only two lanes, and it doesn't look like there's any way to widen it."

The residents had already been chafing at the months-long construction of the 174,000-square-foot SuperTarget, which borders $600,000 homes that used to boast of a pastoral setting.

The closure plan involved asking motorists using that stretch of County Line Road to detour to Lutz Lake Fern Road or northward to the U.S. 41 apex instead. Only residents would have been allowed to enter, Newton said.

Residents want Pasco and Hillsborough to re-evaluate the project's entire road plan.

A Target spokesperson did not respond to a request for an interview Monday.

Pasco officials said the road closure is a Hillsborough matter.

Hillsborough officials estimate County Line Road now carries more than 13,100 vehicles a day, and the Target's opening will swell that to 14,370.

Times staff writers Bill Coats and Mike Brassfield contributed to this report. Chuin-Wei Yap covers growth and development in Pasco County. He can be reached at (813) 909-4613 or cyap@sptimes.com.

[Last modified March 20, 2007, 01:04:44]


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