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Fawn Ridge center snubbed once more

By Jackie Ripley
Published May 11, 2007


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A developer's last-ditch effort to convince Hillsborough County Commissioners that a retail center next to Fawn Ridge would be a good thing has failed, for the fourth time.

"I've never seen an applicant so unwilling to take no for an answer, " said Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan, who moved to deny the rezoning. "It reminds me of the Energizer Bunny. It keeps going and going and going."

Carolina Holdings, in fact, has been going at it for three years in its attempt to rezone nearly 8 acres on Sheldon Road, northwest of Citrus Park Drive.

And homeowners have been there every step of the way protesting the project.

"You're trying to take a size 10 foot and squeeze it into a size 6 shoe, " said County Commissioner Jim Norman. "There's crying out because it doesn't fit."

On Tuesday, the Commission voted 5-1 to deny the rezoning. Commissioner Kevin White cast the only dissenting vote. Commissioner Rose Ferlita was not present.

The rezoning petition has a long and turbulent history. County Commissioners denied the application in 2005, following a series of hearings and appeals.

In November, Carolina Holdings asked a special master to explain why the commission's decision should be overturned.

In his ruling early this year, special master Rick Davis concluded that preserving the property's current agricultural and residential zoning was unreasonable, given development trends in the area.

"I'm torn, " said White, who is new to the commission and to the project. "I think it would probably be a wonderful enhancement."

The proposed center would be two stories high, for a total of 28, 000 square feet, and would include such stores as Ben & Jerry's, Starbucks and a First Watch restaurant. Offices and condominiums would be on the second floor.

"I can't see why the neighborhood would be against this kind of establishment, " White said. "It's great for kids to walk to Ben & Jerry's or grab a Starbucks."

It's also in keeping with the spirit of the trend toward community plans, which promote mixed-use developments to encourage foot-traffic and cut down on driving.

But Fawn Ridge doesn't see it that way. The president of the homeowners association has 273 signatures that were collected in protest of the project.

"Nobody walks to retail anymore, everybody drives, " said Richard Pearson, president of the Fawn Ridge Homeowners Association. "If they say we're going to walk to Starbucks or First Watch, it's not going to happen."

The commission vote, however, doesn't end the matter entirely.

Carolina Holdings has sued the county over its earlier denial of the project, contending county officials failed to follow the law when it denied the rezoning petition.

"A zoning hearing master, planning and growth management and a special master have supported the project, " said Mark Bentley, attorney for Carolina Holdings. "We feel the project emulates and fulfills the visions set forth in the Northwest Plan."

Jackie Ripley can be reached at ripley@sptimes.com or at 813269-5308.

[Last modified May 10, 2007, 07:25:41]


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