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Big-box foes near Bloomingdale Library gain small victory in bitter war

VALRICO — The neighbors fighting a proposed retail development near the Bloomingdale Library received a small concession from the Hillsborough County Commission on Wednesday, but it was hardly enough to stem their frustration.

Members of the Coordinated Active Neighborhoods for Development Organization, or CAN-DO, spoke at the meeting Wednesday and watched as the board approved Commissioner Ken Hagan's motion to dedicate all developer transportation mitigation funding from this project to improving traffic congestion in the immediate vicinity.

That money will be earmarked when Redstone submits the final approved property share agreement. Concerned residents also will be able to review some possible recommendations on how to use that money.

The reaction from the group was tepid at best.

"It's commendable, but unless they plan to widen Bloomingdale to eight lanes, I'm not sure how it can help," said Eric Brosch, who addressed the board sporting a bright orange T-shirt that read "Say No to the Big Box" and advocated for what he called "sensible development."

Brosch and other residents remain opposed to the Redstone Development plan outlining a big-box store, five outparcels and 261 apartments on the property east of the library.

In the course of a discussion about the board's legal position, Commissioner Sandra Murman caught the group's attention with a comment about Redstone's initial presentation.

Murman said she doesn't recall seeing a big-box project come before the board when it reviewed photos from a 2011 Redstone presentation. She said she expected the development to be similar to Winthrop in Riverview.

"I feel like we were, I don't want to say duped so much, but maybe we were a little bit about what the intent for the actual property was going to be," Murman said.

After the meeting, Brosch said, "They promised a Winthrop and delivered a Walmart."

Hagan, who said CAN-DO's "concerns are valid and I want to help the community any way that I can," asked county attorney Chip Fletcher to explain the County Commission's legal options.

"If this board were to try to insert themselves or change the rules for the zoning process or initiate a rezoning that would change what is available on the site for the property owner, there would be substantial legal ramifications," Fletcher said at the meeting.

The land in question has been zoned for potential big box and residential use since 2003, but longtime residents feel they weren't properly informed of the potential zoning at the time.

Theresa Cecchini, who resides in the Bloomingdale Oaks subdivision, said "this to us is a commercial cancer in our environment."

"I don't expect this land to remain undeveloped, but I do expect that what goes there would fit with the community and contribute to it," Brosch said.

The group has raised money and hired Pamela Jo Hatley, a lawyer who specializes in real estate, land use and community association matters, and who advocates for community organizations before local governments in environmental and land-use matters.

"We have retained an attorney to get some questions answered, said Brosch, 41, whose family lives on Cade Lane near Bloomingdale High School. "We are in this for the long haul."

Big-box foes near Bloomingdale Library gain small victory in bitter war 05/18/13 [Last modified: Thursday, May 16, 2013 7:15pm]
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