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Citrus Park community center purists loathe plan

CITRUS PARK — Hillsborough County officials had barely unveiled the proposed location for a long-awaited community center when anger spewed from more than 30 residents at a meeting Tuesday.

"What you're proposing is not the original purpose behind this building, and that's what's got these people upset," said Frank Glavan, who led the steering committee for the Citrus Park Village Plan, which guides development in this 800-acre community. "That property that you got your thing sitting on isn't even in the location where we even talked about."

Under the county's current blueprint, the center would rise on the west side of Citrus Park Elementary in a joint project with Hillsborough schools. The county's parks, recreation and conservation department would fund the $1.5-million project, and the district would handle construction, said Swati Bose, the county real estate department's manager of architecture services.

The 3,500- to 4,000-square-foot center would house special-interest classes, school-related functions, and after-school, teen and senior programs.

The school district would use the building during the day, and the county would run its programs afterward, said Peter Fowler, a parks department manager.

If community groups like the Citrus Park Civic Association wanted to hold meetings after 6 p.m., they could do so but would have to arrange for someone to open, close and clean the center.

"It doesn't sound like this is going to be for our community," said Linda Gadbaw, one of the area's longtime activists. "This sounds like somebody's going to use up the rest of our money that was meant to make us a community center for somebody else's benefit. This was supposed to be a community center, not just an after-school care program and stuff."

More than three years ago, Hillsborough commissioners set aside $2.8-million for a center on property near Alema Street and Gunn Highway. Environmental concerns on that site put the project on hold. Then last April, the county redistributed some of the center's money to a shelter at Carrollwood Elementary.

Residents view the latest incarnation as yet another slight to Citrus Park.

"When we originally talked about it, it was an $8-million thing that got squished down to a $3-million thing," Glavan said. "And now what you're proposing is a $1-million thing that's going to be, really, something the schools are going to use. We're not going to be able to use it. It's a farce."

Fowler said the original $2.8-million set aside for the center was reduced to $1.5-million because the county won't have to buy the land at the proposed location. The center would be a park facility built on school grounds.

Under the county's capital improvements program, construction could begin as early as this summer and end in December, Bose said. The proposed location eventually must be approved by the County Commission.

"You're just going to build another cafeteria," Glavan said. "That's all you're doing.

"Why don't we just save all the money, stop spending it like we are right now and forget the whole thing unless you guys are going to give us something like we talked about," he said. "This is ridiculous."

Rodney Thrash can be reached at rthrash@sptimes.com or (813) 269-5303.

Citrus Park community center purists loathe plan 01/22/09 [Last modified: Thursday, January 22, 2009 3:30am]
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