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Community plans up for discussion

County commissioners will revisit portions of the plans dealing with limits on commercial development. Fear of litigation is delaying approval of those limits.

By BILL COATS

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 11, 2000


LUTZ -- This week, the Hillsborough County Commission returns to a topic that generated an explosion of anger on May 10: the Lutz and Keystone community plans.

Commissioners tentatively approved most portions of those plans that night. But they deleted a section that included tighter limits on commercial development. The commissioners voiced fear of lawsuits, even though their staff attorneys assured them the changes could be defended in court.

The votes enraged community leaders, who had worked with the county's Planning Commission for 18 months to develop the community plans. They are intended to produce customized land-use rules that protect the rural and semirural characters of Lutz and Keystone.

The question reopens, at least a tad, at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday. Commissioner Jan Platt, who supported the commercial limits, has requested a report on their legality and has asked to discuss other items.

Civic leaders hope during that meeting to persuade commissioners to schedule a new hearing on the commercial section. Even if the commercial rezonings aren't banned at some intersections, as the plans initially proposed, the leaders hope to restore plans to regulate the character of commercial development in the communities.

"We need the rest of the language in there," said Laura Swain, a Keystone leader and former member of the Planning Commission.

They have been negotiating with developers' lobbyists and at least one county commissioner.

"The only thing that's going to stop this is the county commissioners themselves," said Denise Layne, president of the Lutz Civic Association.

At 6 p.m. Wednesday the County Commission meets about aspects of the community plans that commissioners haven't taken up. They are to consider six land tracts in Keystone and Odessa and one in Lutz that are proposed to either acquire or lose "urban" status in Hillsborough's long-range plan. That status affects whether water and sewer systems are to be extended to the properties.

Thus far, those amendments have generated little controversy except from owners of the land affected.

-- Bill Coats can be reached at (813) 226-3469 or coats@sptimes.com.

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