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Planning officials don't buy developer's Keystone ideas

The County Commission will have the final say.

By RODNEY THRASH, Times Staff Writer
Published February 1, 2008



Standing before Hillsborough planning commissioners, the president of the Keystone Civic Association pointed toward the audience.

"Look out here," Tom Aderhold told them.

Rows of men and women in neon green shirts - all of them longtime Keystone homeowners - rose to their feet. They didn't say anything. The stickers affixed to their chests said it all: STOP! IT'S INCONSISTENT! DENY IT!

Swayed by the overwhelming display and their own staff's analyses, commissioners late Monday rejected four proposals that people in this northwest Hillsborough community say would have stripped them of more - so much more - than just 305 acres.

"We're not simply talking about land use here," said Aderhold. It's "our history, our family roots." That history dates back to 1837, when the Mobley family settled in the area, and to 1910, when Keystone was platted.

Northdale developer Stephen Dibbs wanted to take a huge chunk out of Keystone. He wanted to subtract 305 acres from Lutz-Lake Fern Road west of the Suncoast Parkway, change its land use designation from "agricultural rural" to "suburban mixed use," revise a long-standing policy of one house per 5 acres, and add 596 homes and 175,000 square feet of commercial space.

Dibbs bought the land in 2004, three years after the Keystone-Odessa Community Plan took effect. The plan strictly prohibits the sort of development Dibbs' representatives proposed on Monday.

"You can't buy land assuming you're going to be able to change it," said commissioner Terri Cobb, who lives in Keystone. "I just don't think it's fair to the people who spent years putting this plan together. I understand the desire for development and the desire to move on, but in this particular area, I think the people are entitled to live the way they wanted to live."

And the way they want to live is "rural," said Barbara Dowling, recording secretary of the Keystone Civic Association. "Keystone has not wavered in its vision and it does not today."

Representatives for Dibbs said Keystone isn't as rural as it lets on. Pointing to land north, south and east of Keystone with higher densities than the ones his client proposed, land planner Steve Allison said, "This area is not rural in nature; it's suburban."

Commissioners, however, couldn't ignore the divergent paths of Dibbs' plan and the community's, which took years to develop and ratify. By the county's own count, there were more than 57 news articles on the Keystone plan and numerous community meetings.

Had he been in Dibbs' shoes, "I would have been at the community meetings with a site plan and gone through all the battles with the neighborhood at that time," said commissioner Edward Giunta, a developer. "Maybe you win some of them over. Maybe you don't. But at least you know what your battles are. This was really the wrong way to go about it."

Said commissioner Miller Dowdy: "To not work with communities is inconsistent."

Monday's meeting was more procedural than finite. The planning staff's recommendations now go to the County Commission, which will have the final say.

It is scheduled to vote on the proposed amendments on Feb. 7.

Rodney Thrash can be reached at 813 269-5303 or

[Last modified January 31, 2008, 21:22:48]

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