DOVER — Developers hope to break ground on a 3,000-acre alternative energy park in eastern Hillsborough County in December.
The $580 million project will rise at the site of a former phosphate mine bordered by State Road 60 and Turkey Creek, the developers said.
Mark Robbins, executive vice president of the South Florida-based Imperium Energy LLC, said if everything goes according to schedule, the park should open in 2013.
"We're looking forward to getting started," Robbins said.
The park will house four types of energy: waste to gas, solar, aquaculture and hydroponic agriculture. There will also be space for offices and research facilities.
The county's Planning Commission gave the project its thumbs up in February, and the County Commission voted Oct. 12 in approval of the project 6-0, with Commissioner Jim Norman absent.
Kyle Mowitz, Imperium's president, promises that the park will bring hundreds of permanent jobs and more than 1,000 temporary construction jobs to the area.
Mowitz said permanent positions will range from labor jobs to engineer and scientist roles, and salaries will range from about $35,000 to upward of $100,000.
He said it's still too soon to post job listings, but when the time is right, Imperium will call on local people to fill those slots.
Residents who live around the project site have been hesitant about the project since it was introduced this year. Some worried that expanding the urban service area could pave the way for future unwanted development. Others worried about the impact on traffic.
In response, Imperium worked with community leaders to create a citizens advisory council, which will give developers input as construction begins.
George Niemann, a Dover resident and member of Hillsborough's United Citizens' Action Network, will serve as one of the council's leaders. Niemann said Imperium's decision to create the council was a good sign.
"So many times, on big projects like this, the surrounding community doesn't really know what's happening … until they see the development actually taking place, with bulldozers and everything, and everyone gets riled up," Niemann said.
Niemann said green energy production appeals to the community, but residents want to make sure negative effects of the new development don't outweigh the good.
Traffic is a main concern. Both during construction and in regular operation, Niemann said.
Mowitz, the developer, said there's no way to avoid increased traffic, but that they would aim to make it as "low-impact as possible."
Another community fear is that the park will stink — literally — from the waste products used for energy, Niemann said.
Mowitz disputed that, explaining that those operations would take place in an enclosed facility far away from any homes.
The advisory council's first meeting with Imperium has not yet been scheduled.
Kim Wilmath can be reached at (813)661-2442 or firstname.lastname@example.org.