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Builder reacts to concerns

Randum Corp. asks for time to revise plans for apartments after Beverly Hills residents complain.

By BRIDGET HALL GRUMET

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 23, 2001


LECANTO -- Citing the concerns raised by dozens of Beverly Hills residents last week, the developer of a proposed 120-unit apartment complex has asked for additional time to revise its plans before a final hearing on the project.

In a letter sent to county officials Thursday, project engineer Lynn Townsend asked that the March 27 hearing on the proposed complex be delayed until further notice.

"Randum Corp. would like more time in order to adequately address the concerns expressed by the neighboring residents (at a Feb. 13 County Commission workshop)," Townsend's letter reads. "In addition, please note that we will be revisiting the current design to ensure its compatibility with the surrounding community."

Community Development Director Chuck Dixon said the final hearing would be delayed until the developer is ready. Townsend told a reporter Thursday she had "no clue" when that would be.

The news brought a big smile to the face of Jane Fricano, outgoing president of the Beverly Hills Civic Association.

"I really think it's great that they're at least listening to our concerns," Fricano said. "For awhile, it seemed like they weren't."

The plans call for five apartment buildings, each three stories tall, and a 12,800-square-foot retail strip at the corner of County Road 491 and Regina Boulevard, behind the Regions Bank.

Townsend has said Randum Corp. wants to build an attractive complex that will enhance Beverly Hills, but many residents have been critical of the project.

About 100 homeowners packed into the County Commission chambers and spilled out into the hallway of the Masonic Building Feb. 13 to show their opposition.

The concerns ranged from fears about increased crime and decreased property values to questions about how elderly and handicapped residents would reach upper-level units without elevators in the buildings.

With no other three-story buildings in the area, residents wondered whether the firefighters had the equipment and the training to battle a third-story blaze.

Others said a large apartment complex on 9 acres of land would be out of keeping with the rest of Beverly Hills, a sprawling community of about 5,300 homes, many owned by retirees.

Townsend told a reporter Thursday that all of the issues raised by the residents would be considered as her firm reviewed the plans. She declined to elaborate on any specifics.

Townsend said the developer agrees with all of the conditions laid out by county staff, which includes scaling down the proposed retail strip from 16,500 to 12,800 square feet. The strip would have "neighborhood commercial" stores, such as a video rental store or a beauty parlor.

The Planning and Development Review Board has recommended approval of the initial plan, but the final decision is up to the County Commission. As long as the proposal does not increase in size or density, the revised plan could go straight to the commission for a final vote, Dixon said.

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