Saturday, December 16, 2017
Business

Lawsuit settlement clears the way for controversial 'big box' store in Valrico

VALRICO — A long-disputed big-box development is on track to open next to the Bloomingdale Regional Public Library after an opponent settled a lawsuit against the developer and Hillsborough County.

The settlement reached this week follows more than a year of public outcry, including allegations that the county violated its own rules and policies in approving the site on E Bloomingdale Avenue. Fred Brown, a member of the Coordinated Active Neighborhoods for Development Organization, known as CAN-DO, sued the county and Redstone Development, arguing against the legality of a text amendment to the land development code that paved the way for the development.

"After several rounds of meetings, Mr. Brown and the officers of CAN-DO acknowledged that the project has the potential to enhance the neighborhood and surrounding community," said Brown's attorney Pamela Jo Hatley. "The developer showed a willingness to cooperate and listen to the community's concerns."

Hatley said she was unable to give more detailed information on what concessions, if any, were made during those meetings because of the confidential nature of court mediations. However, she said she believed her client had "a very good case" leading up to the meetings.

CAN-DO members staunchly opposed the site plan Redstone Development submitted to Hills­borough County officials outlining a big-box store, five outparcels and 261 apartments on the property east of the library. Though no retail outlet has been named, many speculated the site will be home to a Walmart.

Brown argued in the lawsuit filed last fall that a 2011 text amendment that changed the property from a traditional neighborhood development to a mixed-use development was unconstitutional. However, the court found that the ordinance was, in fact, a text amendment that was properly adopted and had the correct public notice.

"We believe the county's ordinance and the board of county commissioners' action was legally valid, and this stipulation supports that," Hillsborough County Attorney Chip Fletcher said.

Residents were concerned about the effect the big-box store and apartments would have on home values, traffic, the environment and pedestrian safety — especially for kids walking to the nearby schools. Hatley could not comment on whether of these issues were addressed in the meetings with the developer.

Tom Hand, senior vice president of Redstone, did not return requests for comment.

Caitlin Johnston can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 661-2443.

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