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Rezoning smooths way for Publix

The Lutz-Lake Fern Road project may block School Board plans to build a high school someday at the shopping center's site.


© St. Petersburg Times, published June 16, 2000

LUTZ -- A Publix is coming to Lutz-Lake Fern Road.

Hillsborough County commissioners this week unanimously rezoned land at the southeast corner of Lutz-Lake Fern and N Dale Mabry Highway for a small shopping center with Publix as the anchor tenant. Developer Allen Goins said he hopes to break ground this fall and open the center late next summer.

The development may be a final obstacle dashing plans by the Hillsborough County School Board to someday build a high school on the same property. The School Board would have to condemn the property, a tactic several board members vehemently oppose.

Last week, the School Board temporarily shelved plans for the high school and reallocated the money to other projects. But administrators refused to rule out the Lutz-Lake Fern property as a site.

Goins plans to base the shopping center on a design that, although used elsewhere, bears a striking link to the Old Lutz Schoolhouse, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. Like the schoolhouse on U.S. 41, the Publix is to feature red brick and a cupola.

It will be only 21/2 miles north of an existing Publix at Dale Mabry and Van Dyke Road. But Tom Renne, real estate manager for Publix Super Markets Inc., said that's okay.

"The growth was so phenomenal up that corridor, we felt it justified another location," Renne said.

The store will be the closest supermarket to hundreds of new homes along Lutz-Lake Fern in northern Cheval, VillaRosa and Heritage Harbor, which are under construction, and Lake Nancy Estates, which is planned east of Heritage Harbor.

When the shopping center is built, it will include the first segment of a frontage road that eventually is to line all of Dale Mabry north of Cheval. The Florida Department of Transportation acquired a right of way for the road in the 1990s.

In doing so, the DOT bought up land that originally was zoned for a center of 110,000 square feet. Goins' attorney has argued since last year that, although half the shopping-center land was lost, the remaining property retained the entire commercial-development rights. So Goins sought approval for a shopping center of 89,000 square feet. Publix's Renne said that would give his medium-size supermarket room to eventually expand.

But an unbroken gauntlet of county planners said the property was limited to about 60,000 square feet by the 11-year-old North Dale Mabry Corridor Plan.

Neighbors, who had overwhelmingly opposed the high school, overwhelmingly supported the Publix. But they split over how big the project should be. Some endorsed the larger center to get a Publix and end uncertainty about the land. But others feared that would break the discipline of the corridor plan, which limits commercial development between Van Dyke and the Pasco County line.

At the last hour Tuesday, Goins proposed a 63,000-square-foot plan, and the planners endorsed it.

It retained several features aimed at winning neighbors' support. Six feet of berms and hedges will line Merry Lane, with stores set 50 feet back from the road. No entrance will be built on Merry. And five acres along the center's south property line will be zoned down to rural residential status.

But when Goins downsized his plan, he reopened the door to several possibilities in the center's two free-standing buildings that neighbors do not want, such as gasoline stations and fast-food restaurants. Yet he predicted one of the sites would house a branch bank.

The final controversy involved delivery hours for trucks. Under pressure from Commissioner Jim Norman, Renne and Goins agreed Tuesday to ban deliveries between 10 p.m. and 6:30 a.m.

Norman said he didn't want to duplicate a problem at Stall Road in Carrollwood.

"I got the calls for three straight years when the trucks came in at 3 in the morning to the Kenny Rogers," Norman complained. "That rocks a neighborhood."

-- Bill Coats can be reached at (813) 226-3469 or

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