TAMPA — The Hillsborough County Planning Commission unanimously voted to postpone its final decision on the Interstate 4 Green Tech Corridor until April 5.
The decision came after a contentious four-hour meeting Monday night.
"I just don't want to rush this if we don't have to," said planning commissioner Frank Chillura. "It's very important."
The project would run along a 30-mile stretch of land from Temple Terrace to Polk County. Changes to county rules must be made for the development to happen.
On Monday, commissioners approved a language amendment but couldn't decide on a map designating points of development. Some hoped to downsize the 12,000 acres included within rural areas, while other members of the group argued that the land would be protected if regulations were put into place.
"If we don't plan it now, when are we going to plan it?" asked commissioner Hung Mai.
Chairman Bruce Cury reminded the board that 5,000 acres in Tampa, Temple Terrace and Plant City would also be open for development as part of the proposal.
"My feeling is that we are overreaching here," Cury said. "We have a diminishing supply of rural, agricultural and recreational lands. This is 'build it and they will come.' That is not consistent with our public purpose."
Residents from areas affected by the project lined up to voice their opinions about developing the corridor. Most opposed the proposed plan, motivated by a study requested in 2008 by county commissioners, and said it was just a way to turn rural spaces into office parks.
"I object to the expansion area because it will expand the urban service area into the rural service area," said Charlotte Butler-Nelson, who lives in Plant City. "The industries are out of character for the area and do not meet the community standards established by my neighbors and myself."
The I-4 corridor has been touted as a way to attract high-paying biomedical and green industry jobs, along with sustainable developments. An estimated 18,748 jobs paying at least $40,000 a year are expected, said Heather Lamboy, the commission's principal planner.
Changes to accommodate the plan are geared toward establishing "permit-ready" sites that can be easily marketed to developers.
The plan will also aim to limit growth within areas with water and other services, while preserving agricultural-based developments, Lamboy said. Businesses that develop in rural areas will have to follow a stricter set of guidelines.
The county staff has approved the project, and once planning commissioners make a decision, it will head to county commissioners for a final vote.
Chandra Broadwater can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 661-2454.