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Equestrian trail sought near planned development

Twin Branch Acres residents have resigned themselves to a commercial development nearby, but they could be further appeased with a riding trail, they say.

By JACKIE RIPLEY

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 4, 2001


KEYSTONE -- Residents in Twin Branch Acres are concerned about a developer's plan to build a commercial and light industrial complex near the northeast corner of Hillsborough Avenue and Race Track Road. Unable to stop progress, they're trying to at least make it more palatable.

"We hope to persuade the developer to put a trail along the creek," said Paul Hauck who lives in Twin Branch Acres. "It would be nice for equestrians to have a place to ride."

Monroe's Prestige Group Inc. wants to rezone 126 acres near the intersection for a plaza likely to house offices, warehouses, retail shops and a grocery store or home improvement store.

According to the petition, which asks for a planned development designation, North Bay Commerce Center would include 125,000 square feet for commercial uses on 18 acres, 182,000 square feet for high intensity highway commercial uses on 18 acres and 440,000 square feet for light industrial uses on nearly 90 acres. The company plans three entrances for Hillsborough and three for Race Track.

Nearly 6 acres fronting Hillsborough is zoned general commercial. The remaining acreage is industrial agricultural.

The property "was targeted for one of the neo-traditional neighborhoods," said Hauck, referring to the county's recently completed community plan, which resulted in a blueprint for Northwest Hillsborough and Citrus Park. "Now they're proposing industrial, big box and retail."

Monroe's Prestige is the developer for the Publix Shopping Center being built across from Sickles High School on Gunn Highway.

Ira Waitz, vice president for Monroe's Prestige Group, attended a recent Twin Branch Acres homeowners association meeting to discuss the development. Hauck said residents talked to Waitz about the "considerable amount of wetlands and environmentally sensitive land" on the tract as well as their hope for an equestrian trail.

"A lot of our guys ride back there now," Hauck said. "I paddle my kayak back there a lot."

If built, the trail would run along the south side of the railroad tracks and Double Branch Creek.

Hauck said Waitz "didn't have specifics at the time but seemed willing to keep us in the loop and be willing to work with us."

Waitz could not be reached for comment.

Hauck said that after meeting with Waitz, a lot of the neighbors were glad there was another shopping center proposed for the area. "I didn't see anybody upset about the concept," he said.

Hauck, however, said homeowners were interested in seeing the project developed in a western theme more in keeping with the feel of the Race Track Road corridor.

A zoning hearing master will hear the petition June 4.

- Jackie Ripley can be reached at (813) 226-3468.

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