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Oak Park residents, plaza owners try to resolve alcohol sales debate

BRANDON — Both sides in the ongoing battle over wet-zone permits for two new businesses in Oak Park Plaza will sit down next week and try to resolve the issue.

It's the first time owners of Oak Park Plaza will meet with a representative for nearby homeowners. The meeting comes less than a month before the issue is due before a county zoning board for a second time.

"If our neighbors are willing to work with us, I am sure we can sort through this and make everyone happy," said Todd Pressman, a lobbyist for the plaza's owners, Winbran Corp.

In May, the county's zoning master ruled against variances that would have allowed alcohol sales at the new businesses — a restaurant and a liquor store — in Oak Park Plaza at Lumsden Road and Kings Avenue in Brandon.

Winbran appealed that decision and won, sending the issue back to the county's zoning master.

That hearing is set for Oct. 15.

Residents of Oak Park, a 75-home development behind the plaza, are vehement in their opposition, saying they already have problems with parking, security and noise as a result of existing businesses in the plaza. Adding two new businesses that can sell alcohol will only make the situation worse, residents say.

The plaza is home to O'Brien's Irish Pub and Family Restaurant and the Shrimp Warehouse, which both sell alcohol. Two free-standing buildings under construction in the plaza also plan to serve drinks.

"We are not Ybor City," said Gwen Plyler, treasurer of the Oak Park Homeowners Association.

"I don't think anyone right now has a clear view of what both parties are looking for," said Dawn Chapman, an attorney for the homeowners association. "I want to see if there is some common ground. We want to get a conversation going that will hopefully lead to rectifying some of the issues.

"It's important (the plaza owners) know what my client's issues are."

Chapman says there is a perception that Oak Park residents are only concerned about alcohol permits for the two new businesses.

"That is not the case," she said. "They are also concerned with existing parking and safety issues with people driving fast or impaired drivers, as well as noise and impaired people coming on their property."

Chapman will make those points when she meets Pressman and Winbran executives Aug. 23.

"She (Chapman) knows what we want and what we will not budge on it," Plyer said. "If (Winbran) comes across and do what we want, fine and dandy. If not we will see him on Oct. 15."

Kevin Brady can be reached at [email protected]

Oak Park residents, plaza owners try to resolve alcohol sales debate 08/16/12 [Last modified: Thursday, August 16, 2012 4:30am]
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