New gated community shuns city
By SUSAN THURSTON and MICHAEL SANDLER
© St. Petersburg Times,
PEBBLE CREEK -- Prospective developers of Live Oak are polishing plans for the gated community in New Tampa and say they have no intentions of making it part of the city.
"We are continuing to work with the county and we have a good relationship with the county," said Jim Zboril, vice president of St. Lucie West Development Corp. "We are not annexing."
The commitment could weaken the bargaining power of Pebble Creek and Cross Creek, which have been negotiating with the city about joining Tampa. The unincorporated communities lie just south of Live Oak, a 1-by-2-mile tract of pasture land at the southeast corner of Bruce B. Downs Boulevard and County Line Road.
If Live Oak doesn't want to annex, then the city may have less incentive to persuade the communities to leave the county. In order to annex Live Oak, Tampa needs Pebble Creek and Cross Creek. Without them, the city may be prohibited because it would create an island of county land, which the state does not allow.
Mike Carricato, president of the Pebble Creek Homeowners Association, said Live Oak's decision to stay in the county should have no bearing on the communities' annexation talks, which are moving forward. He and other leaders of the homeowner groups are meeting Thursday with Ron Rotella, the mayor's consultant on development.
"Whatever Live Oak does is up to Live Oak," Carricato said. "We're still in a fact-finding mode and trying to figure out what's best for the communities. We still don't have all the answers that we want."
City officials have said homeowners could expect to pay at least $200 to $250 more in property and utility taxes if they are annexed. However, they may get cheaper water and sewer service.
Carricato said he hoped the meeting would yield new information. Members have said they will make recommendations to their neighbors once they have all the facts. Rotella could not be reached for comment.
Earlier this year, people from Pebble Creek and Cross Creek asked the city about the pros and cons of annexing. Around the same time, representatives of Live Oak met with city officials to evaluate their options.
In order for Pebble Creek and Cross Creek to become part of the city, at least half of the nearly 6,900 people who live there have to vote for it. Conversely, Live Oak would require approval from just the developer.
Live Oaks officials say they have been working for months with the county on the project and have had little contact with the city about annexing. Any recent talks with the city have focused on getting water and sewer service to the property, which lies within the Tampa's service area. The city also has proposed making the east-west route through Live Oak a public road, but the developer opposes it.
A zoning hearing before the County Commission had been scheduled for Tuesday, but was postponed last week to July 31. Developers said they needed more time to resolve transportation issues. They also wanted to meet with neighbors who could be affected by the development.
Representatives of Live Oak met with people from Pebble Creek and Meadow Pointe in Pasco County on Thursday to talk about buffers between the communities and answer questions. A few people had concerns about the close proximity to their homes, but generally supported the project.
"We'd like to see it stay as cow fields, but what can we do?" said Pat Asklar of Meadow Pointe.
The project, called Live Oak Preserve, was approved in 1994 for 1,590 homes, a golf course and 175,000 square feet of retail and office space. St. Lucie West, which has a contract to buy the land, recently decided to drop the golf course and leave it as open space, much to the relief of environmentalists.
Plans show entrances at the existing breaks in the median along Bruce B. Downs. Construction on the roads is expected to start next year, with homes going up in mid 2002. Work will start on the west and continue eastward.
St. Lucie West is working with several nationally known builders to construct the homes. Prices will range from $110,000 for a townhouse to $400,000 for a single-family home.
-- Susan Thurston can be reached at (813) 226-3463. Michael Sandler can be reached at (813) 226-3472.
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