BRANDON — Homeowners and county environmental officials want the brakes put on a RaceTrac gas station proposed for the southeast corner of Lumsden Road and Kings Avenue.
"A commitment was made that this area would be maintained as a wetland conservation area," said Terry Flott, chairman of the greater Brandon area United Citizens' Action Network. "We want them to stand by that agreement."
In 2002, as part of a planned development agreement with the county, 39.5 acres at Lumsden and Kings was designated as wetlands. Developers are now seeking a waiver on that agreement that would allow construction on two acres of the property.
The county's director of wetlands also gave the proposed gas station a thumbs down.
Scott Emery, Wetlands Division director at the Environmental Protection Commission of Hillsborough County cited the project's impact on wetlands in a Feb. 7 letter to the Planning and Zoning Commission.
Gwen Plyler, secretary of the Oak Park Homeowners Association, a 75-home development a stone's throw from the proposed gas station said her neighbors also oppose any building on the wetlands for ecological, business and traffic reasons.
"We already have two gas stations — a 7-Eleven and Mobil — and we don't need another one. Traffic is already a nightmare," said Plyler, who has lived in the area for nine years. "We can't get out of Oak Park at certain times of the day and this will just make it worse. Everyone living here feels the same way."
As for the upcoming hearing, Plyler said Oak Park homeowners will be there in force to voice their opposition.
"It's a safety and environmental issue for us," she said.
A wooded wetland filled with trees, the conservation area is valuable because the trees help maintain a healthy ecosystem by filtering water and maintaining shade, unlike many wetland areas, Flott said.
"So it has more value to us but some people seem to think concrete has more value," Flott said.
The county's planning commission will review the application at a 6 p.m. hearing Monday at the County Center, 601 East Kennedy Blvd.
A waiver in this case could also set a dangerous precedent, said Flott who is leading a campaign against the gas station.
"If they get away with this then word will get around very quickly. It will set a terrible precedent for everyone else who has a wetland agreement."
Kevin Brady can be reached at email@example.com.