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Mediator to help resolve county, developer dispute

The two sides have been arguing over the size of buildings on a proposed development at Gunn Highway and Van Dyke Road.

By JOSH ZIMMER

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 11, 2001


KEYSTONE -- A mediator has been named in an effort to settle a dispute between Hillsborough County and a Gunn Highway developer over the size of the buildings on a 5.25-acre tract.

Tampa lawyer William Smith, a land-use specialist who has been a lawyer since 1987 and a certified city and county court mediator since 1993, will begin meeting with both sides on July 17, assistant county attorney Julia Mandell said. Once the county and developer agreed on Smith, the County Commission approved the choice.

"I've known Will for a long time," said Vin Marchetti, attorney for Belleair Development Group. "I think he's a reasonable guy."

Mandell, who handles mediation cases for the County Commission, said, "He has a very good resume, good experience, . . . and I think generally has a good reputation in this town."

Belleair's application for 15,000-square-feet of commercial/business space and a 4,000-square-foot day-care center was approved in December. But in a nod to Keystone residents who prefer smaller, rural-style architecture, board members said no building at the northeast corner of Gunn Highway and Van Dyke Road could be larger than 7,500-square feet. Belleair challenged the ruling, claiming the county made an arbitrary decision with no basis in law.

The county says it has the legal right to limit building sizes and has done so in the past.

Belleair owner Greg Nowack initially said he could market the property. However, Marchetti said the company quickly ran into difficulty finding customers because of the size limitation.

Mediation can be a time-consuming process and may not result in a settlement, Mandell said.

The proposed deal can be rejected by either side, she said. If that occurs, the case will go to a special master who will decided whether the commission made the right decision in limiting building sizes. Belleair would have the right to sue the county if they cannot reach an agreement.

Belleair also filed for mediation on behalf of the property's owners, Richard and Ardeth Hope of Dade City.

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