BRANDON — County commissioners looked on for almost four hours as suburban residents expressed concerns over property rights, development and overall community vision.
Commissioners heard comprehensive plan changes and proposed community plans at a public hearing April 8, with residents either strongly in favor of the plans or so opposed that they asked to remove their properties.
The more controversial items on the agenda included the Brandon community plan, the Seffner community plan and amendments for a proposed green energy industrial park on a former phosphate mine in Dover.
The Brandon community plan ran into problems as six property owners requested to opt out of the plan, and representatives from the Brandon Chamber of Commerce said they had concerns that had not been sufficiently addressed. Many of the property owners requesting to be removed mentioned possible rezoning of their properties near Lithia-Pinecrest Road as a problem.
Community activist Vivian Bacca and others involved in the planning process asked commissioners to ignore the property owners' requests to opt out. She also said the Brandon Chamber of Commerce participated in developing the plan, and the chamber's last-minute opposition was because the plan didn't give in to all their demands.
Commissioner Al Higginbotham said he was surprised by the opposition, saying it was the first plan in three years where he heard this amount of objection from the community.
"I think it's important that we respect the rights of those who have asked to be removed," he said.
Commissioner Kevin Beckner said he supported the chamber of commerce, but warned against trying to overturn the planning process by last-minute objections.
Commissioners decided to delay the vote on the Brandon plan until July, giving organizers more time to gain community approval.
The Seffner community plan ran into many of the same issues, with developers requesting to opt out and community organizers angry over last-minute opposition.
Terry Flott, a Seffner community activist, said that in developing the plan, organizers had to work around the Interstate 4 green industrial corridor. Despite wanting to maintain the rural character of Seffner, they accepted that I-4 development would be part of the area's future.
But at the public hearing, three developers involved in the I-4 process requested to be removed from the plan. They objected to requirements that developers pay for any public improvements related to their projects.
However, unlike the Brandon plan, commissioners voted unanimously to approve the Seffner plan.
After the vote, Flott said she felt the county would approve anything regarding the I-4 corridor despite community objections.
In separate action, commissioners voted unanimously to approve amendments for the green industrial park. The two amendments to the county's comprehensive plan would allow development of the project south of State Road 60 bounded by Turkey Creek and Dover roads.
The amendments would expand the county's urban services area to grant the project access to county water and utilities and change the land designation to a new energy industrial park category.
Community activist George Niemann advocated for an advisory board of citizens from properties surrounding the proposed development, but said in an interview earlier this week that he didn't feel the panel was a sure thing.
"We were assured by (the developers) that they would tell the commission that they wanted it, and yet they didn't do it," he said.
Hilary Lehman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 661-2441.