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Plan for preserve angers neighbors across border

Officials want athletic fields at Brooker Creek. Some in Pasco have concerns.

By THERESA BLACKWELL AND CHUIN-WEI YAP
Published May 13, 2007


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TRINITY - A stand of oak and scrub, 200 feet deep, is all that separates Martin Pijanowski's home in Fox Hollow from a looming fight over 46 acres of the Brooker Creek Preserve.

Just south of Trinity Boulevard and the Pasco County line is where Pinellas County is thinking of putting four fields for soccer, football and lacrosse.

It's a proposal that has infuriated neighbors in this stretch of the Fox Hollow community.

For one thing, neighbors charge that Pinellas officials didn't talk to them about any of these plans.

"It's disrespectful that they can do something like that without any thought to the people most affected, just because they live in another county, " said John Fernandez, president of the Fox Hollow's Bellerive homeowners association.

Pinellas' Board of Examiners heard protests from about a dozen Pinellas and Pasco residents Thursday. It was the first of possibly six public hearings leading up to an eventual decision on a proposed land use change to allow ballfields in two locations in the preserve.

The county has had plans for a water treatment plant - called a blending facility - in the Brooker Creek Preserve for years.

But many Trinity residents didn't find out about the blending facility plans until last year, after the county had cleared the land. Officials promised residents they wouldn't see it or hear it.

But the price for building the facility came in higher than expected, so county officials are taking a second look at the project.

The momentum of recent discussion is toward building a facility smaller than originally planned.

Because a smaller facility would require less property, Pinellas County Administrator Steve Spratt suggested in March that the remaining cleared land would be good for fields.

He asked the East Lake Youth Sports Association to apply for a land use change for those acres to allow four all-purpose fields on part of the 46 cleared acres.

In April, the sports association did just that, plus another request for more ballfields on 38.5 piney preserve acres off Old Keystone Road.

Pinellas officials like Paul Cozzie, bureau director of the Culture, Education and Leisure Department, say Trinity residents have little to worry about.

Current lighting technology can pinpoint the lighting and reduce the glare and spill, he said, and trees will provide some screening.

The effect on traffic should be minimal, too, he said, because about 95 to 98 percent of the participants will be coming from unincorporated Pinellas County to the south, and activities will be held at nonpeak traffic times. Parking will be inside the complex, not on the road.

The fields would be at least 1, 000 yards from homes, Cozzie estimated, so noise should be minimal.

Not good enough, Pijanowski said.

"Most games are at night, " the Fox Hollow resident said. "We can hear the band at Mitchell High School a good half-mile away."

Pijanowski could live with the water plant, he said. But not ballfields.

Fernandez wondered whether the sports association, as a private entity, can be held accountable for problems as a public utility.

Cozzie said residents could call Pinellas officials if they have any complaints.

The fields may benefit some Pasco residents because groups such as club soccer have no county residency restrictions.

Cozzie has had some discussions with Pasco officials on sports facilities already and plans to have more.

But that's not the point, Fernandez said. "I'd still have a problem with active recreation on a preservation, " he said.

If you go

Next meeting

Pinellas County commissioners are next scheduled to discuss the proposed changes to the Brooker Creek Preserve from 2 to 4 p.m. May 22 at commission chambers, 315 Court St., Clearwater.

[Last modified May 12, 2007, 19:25:11]


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