County okays station location

Neighbors will be updated on the fire station's planning.

Published April 11, 2007

TAMPA - After two years of controversy, Hillsborough commissioners unanimously agreed Tuesday to rezone a North Tampa site for a fire station.

Calling it "the only controversial fire station I've seen in 15 years," Commissioner Jim Norman pushed to get one condition added: that the county hold public meetings during the station's upcoming design and development phases.

"We can't just build on that site and leave the citizens out of the loop," he said.

The 2-acre site off W Fletcher Avenue and North Boulevard has pitted neighbor against neighbor in the Lake Magdalene area - those concerned that the fire station will damage adjacent Hamner Tower Park and those who say a shorter emergency response time is worth the sacrifice.

Attorney Robert S. Wise owns 1.63 acres of the parcel that commissioners agreed to purchase in October for $1.15-million. Wise stressed public safety over his financial gain, telling commissioners they have the power to save lives.

Hillsborough County fire Chief Bill Nesmith said a fire station at that location is ideal because it's halfway between two existing fire stations.

The county may have to build a retention pond in the park to accommodate water runoff and has agreed to shape it irregularly in order to preserve as many trees as possible. But some may need to go down.

And the county may have to move or destroy a Grand Oak tree on the property.

It's those changes, said resident Nancy Faggianelli, that are bothering people.

"If you were able to put a fire station on Mr. Wise's property without touching the park, we would have no problem with it," she told commissioners.

Because the design for the fire station is not final, the true impact is still uncertain, said county architect Swati Bose. But the county will try to make a "minimal impact on the park," Bose said.

Amber Mobley can be reached at amobley@sptimes.com or 813 269-5311.