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Oldsmar concerned that proposed complex will overload road

Officials say a planned commercial complex in Hillsborough would add congestion to already overburdened Race Track Road.

By ED QUIOCO

© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 1, 2001


OLDSMAR -- A proposed shopping plaza and light industrial complex near the Hillsborough-Pinellas county line could result in a new supermarket and shops serving Oldsmar and Upper Tampa Bay.

It also could mean more traffic on an already congested road, and that concerns Oldsmar planning officials.

Clearwater-based Monroe's Prestige Group has submitted plans to Hillsborough County for the North Bay Commerce Center on 126 acres at the northeast corner of Race Track Road and Hillsborough Avenue. The complex would have 440,000 square feet for light industrial uses and 307,000 square feet for commercial use.

The proposed complex would have three entrances on Hillsborough Avenue and three entrances on Race Track Road, which is already snarled by bumper-to-bumper traffic during rush hour. Tampa Bay Downs and the Oldsmar Flea Market also are on Race Track Road near the complex's proposed site.

Race Track Road is "grossly inadequate for the traffic it carries right now," said Kevin Gartland, president and CEO of the Greater Oldsmar Chamber of Commerce. "It's a mess during rush hour, and it's complicated even more when the flea market is open, and it's even more complicated when the track is open."

Oldsmar Community Development director Nick Staszko has written Hillsborough's planning and zoning division asking officials to require the company to have a traffic analysis done for Race Track Road and to widen the part of the road that runs by the proposed site.

"We are just asking Hillsborough County to have this investigated," Staszko said. "There is just a real opportunity to have some real problems there."

Monroe's Prestige Group anticipates that improvements to Race Track Road will be necessary for its project and the company already has a traffic study for the road, said Ira Waitz, the company's executive vice president. But it is too soon to determine the specifics of the road improvements and how much of the cost should be placed on the company.

"I'm sure it will have to do with road widening and traffic signalization," Waitz said. "We are open to what is fair and just for everybody. We certainly have to do our part in making sure we don't make the traffic conditions worse around there."

The area is ripe for such a complex because of the new neighborhoods that have been built in Oldsmar and Hillsborough County, Waitz said. Plans call for the complex to have a grocery store, shops, offices and warehouses.

The proposed grocery store and shops could draw customers from Oldsmar, Safety Harbor, Pasco and Hillsborough counties and Pinellas commuters driving home from their jobs in Tampa.

"A lot of roads lead to our site," Waitz said. "It's kind of a natural commercial node there. You have a lot of going-home traffic. Plus you have a lot of new developments that will be able to be serviced."

Hillsborough County staffers are in the process of reviewing the plans and will investigate the proposed complex's impact on Race Track Road, said Teresa Mancini, a community planner at Hillsborough's Planning and Growth Management Department. Hillsborough officials also will look into the environmental impact of the proposal because there are wetlands on the property.

The company is asking the county to rezone the property, which currently is zoned for general commercial and industrial agricultural uses. A zoning hearing master is scheduled to hear the company's petition June 4.

Race Track Road needs to be widened not only because of the proposed complex, but also because there are numerous other developments coming, Gartland said. The chamber is lobbying Hillsborough County to widen Race Track Road from Tampa Road north to S Mobley Road.

"It's overcapacity right now," Gartland said.

- Staff writer Ed Quioco can be reached at (727) 445-4183.

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