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Growth guidelines remain out of mix

Some residents worry that officials are favoring developers over the public.

By MICHAEL VAN SICKLER
Published April 12, 2007


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TAMPA - A broad range of guidelines that county planners say would curb sprawl and improve development were rejected by Hillsborough County commissioners at a workshop last month.

On Wednesday, some residents who opposed that decision hoped commissioners would reconsider.

They didn't, further heightening the residents' concern that commissioners are consulting more with developers than the public about building policy.

"I'm very discouraged," said George Niemann, a board member of the Dover Woods Homeowners Association. "They seem to be excluding the public in the process."

During a March 14 workshop, commissioners voted 5-2 to toss about 70 policies from the comprehensive plan, which dictates how the county will grow. It sets parameters on everything from where developers can build to how dense and tall their projects can be.

Residents complained commissioners didn't give the public notice it would take action at a workshop, a type of meeting where they typically discuss topics but don't vote on them.

The policies were only recommendations on how to build, said Ray Chiaramonte, the Planning Commission's assistant executive director.

But builders call them onerous and more hassle in an already complicated process.

"They sound innocuous, but they all tend to become mandatory," said Joseph Narkiewicz, executive vice president of the Tampa Bay Builders Association.

Commissioners Rose Ferlita and Mark Sharpe argued that the public should have a say. An assistant county attorney assured them that commissioners could reinstate the policies during a public hearing on April 19.

But commission Chairman Jim Norman turned red faced. "The board voted to exclude the policies," Norman said.

The disagreement, which came at the end of the meeting, left many puzzled.

Chiaramonte and Narkiewicz said they weren't clear what commissioners could do at the next week's public hearing.

"I'm a little confused," Narkiewicz said.

Michael Van Sickler can be reached at (813) 226-3402 or mvansickler@sptimes.com.

 

[Last modified April 12, 2007, 06:39:59]


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