A little more than 2 acres of rural land off U.S. 41 could soon be developed for office space, much to the dismay of nearby neighbors.
The land sits on the south side of Miller Mac Road, just west of Fauna Lane. Though a couple of commercial buildings abut the land to the east, the surrounding area is largely residential.
Property trustee Sam Reiber, who is also trustee of an 8,000-square-foot structure on the east side of the property, asks that 0.28 acres be rezoned for general commercial development and about 2 more acres for professional office space, in a proposal filed in April with county officials.
The request sailed through preliminary Hillsborough County Planning Commission channels without opposition from county agencies that reviewed it. A zoning hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m. Sept. 20 at Hillsborough County Center, 601 E Kennedy Blvd.
About 300 residents who live near the proposed development have signed a petition asking for the proposal's denial. They cite disruption to the residential community, intrusion into wildlife habitats and potential for increased traffic as their primary concerns.
But the developer has a different vision, said Todd Pressman, a consultant who represents Reiber. Pressman said his client wants to build a "non-imposing, very quiet" building for doctors and lawyers' offices.
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Businesses would be limited to 5,000 square feet, and establishments including taverns, car washes, dry cleaners, car repair shops and sign-painting shops would be prohibited, according to the draft proposal.
Only the Environmental Protection Commission has requested additional conditions attached to the project. Before developers plan for construction, they must delineate protected wetlands, and EPC staff must sign off that nothing will be built there or within 30 feet, the draft proposal states.
County planner Isabelle Albert said that's standard procedure for rezoning a wetlands area.
But it doesn't appease neighbors, who worry that the restrictions won't stick. "I'm not very confident," said Bruce Davis, who lives in the area and is helping organize the community's opposition effort.
Davis said the wetlands are just one portion of the wildlife habitat on the property. Bobcats, birds, squirrels and raccoons will have a tough time navigating the area when it's impeded by buildings, he said.
Also, Davis said, the land serves as a buffer to the SouthShore Falls subdivision to the south, and residents worry that bringing new businesses to the neighborhood will come with dangerous traffic.
He also argued that plenty of vacant office space already exists all over town, pointing out spots at the Mira Bay Villages and along Apollo Beach Boulevard. "Why put in an office building when there's so much open space right now?" Davis said.
Pressman disputes the community's arguments, noting that "I've never heard of a small little office project that generated traffic that was a problem."
Responding to the question of forgone vacant spots nearby, Pressman said it's the property owner's choice to do what he wants with his land.
"The question is, what's going to go there and how big. And I think his choice so far is on the heavily nonimpactful side," Pressman said. "I think it's a very credible way to go."
Nevertheless, Davis said and other opposing residents plan to show up in force at the Sept. 20 hearing to voice their concerns in person.
Davis said anyone who wishes to participate should attend a community meeting at 11 a.m. Sept. 11 at the SouthShore Falls clubhouse.
Kim Wilmath can be reached at (813) 661-2442 or [email protected]