Hillsborough County Commission preserves Keystone plan

KEYSTONE — The Board of County Commissioners has unanimously quashed the latest assault on rural Keystone and preserved the area's future growth plan, at least for one more year.

Developer Stephen Dibbs wanted commissioners to exempt him from the citizen-authored Keystone-Odessa Community Plan so he could build a supermarket, restaurants and convenience stores north of Lutz-Lake Fern Road and west of the Suncoast Parkway.

The plan caps development at seven homes or 40,000 square feet of commercial buildings and prohibits the extension of public water and sewer into rural areas, which use wells and septic tanks.

During a hearing last week, representatives for Dibbs told commissioners that the plan, which became law in 2001, is outdated. Steve Allison and Todd Pressman said the area is more suburban than rural and capable of supporting the more intense development their client envisions.

Dibbs' request was among the most blatant cases of a developer disregarding a community's wishes and, if he had prevailed, the decision may have set a precedent for community plans across Hillsborough.

Four of the 24 speakers at the meeting weren't Keystone homeowners, but stakeholders in rural southern and eastern Hillsborough.

"If this goes forward," Lithia's Pam Clouston said, "that is just going to happen like a house of cards, a pile of dominos all over this county."

Before casting her vote against Dibbs' proposal, Commissioner Rose Ferlita acknowledged as much.

"Where we violate or disrespect community plans for one," she said, "we disrespect it for others."

But Ferlita and her colleagues said they voted against Dibbs' proposal not because of the arguments for preservation but because it surfaced at the wrong time.

The Keystone plan is up for review in 2010. That, commissioners said, is when Dibbs should approach the county. Not now.

"There are mechanisms and processes," Ferlita said. "The people that were not satisfied with the original community plan have the option to come back and tell this board or whoever's sitting up here what they want changed."

Commissioner Kevin White encouraged Dibbs to work with the community and seek their support.

"One day something's going to encroach on their neighborhood, but they want to be a part of what encroaches on them because they have a wholehearted stake," he said.

Dibbs, who was not at the hearing and did not return a call seeking comment, told the St. Petersburg Times last month that he will keep requesting an amendment to Keystone's plan "until we put a commercial shopping center there."

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

Hillsborough County Commission preserves Keystone plan 04/09/09 [Last modified: Thursday, April 9, 2009 4:30am]

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