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Hearing officer's ruling exempts land from tight utility rules

The decision means water and sewer systems can be extended to 255 acres owned by the Agia family.

By BILL COATS

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 28, 2000


LUTZ -- New rules restricting urban concentrations of development in Lutz won't apply to 255 acres bisected by the Suncoast Parkway, a county hearing officer has ruled.

That means public water and sewer systems can be extended to the land owned by the children of eye surgeon Dr. Raymond Agia north of Lutz-Lake Fern Road.

Last year, Hillsborough County banned extension of those utilities outside designated urban areas, in an attempt to encourage rural, low-density development on wells and septic tanks in most of Lutz. Part of the Agias' 255 acres is outside the county's so-called urban service area.

But the Agias' attorney convinced hearing officer Dennis Long that they had invested "hundreds of thousands of dollars" in development plans that predated last year's tightening of the rules. So Long's decision last week exempted the land from the rules.

Nobody opposed the request in a hearing June 30.

The property has been zoned since 1992 for up to 303 houses and a small shopping center, with the understanding that the Suncoast Parkway would cross some portion of it. In 1998, the Florida Department of Transportation paid the Agias $8.95-million for 73 acres through the center of the land.

Long cited "extraordinary delays beyond the applicant's control" caused by the expressway plans. "It would be inequitable, unjust and fundamentally unfair to destroy the rights acquired by the applicant," he wrote.

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

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