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Oak Park Plaza settles dispute with nearby residents

BRANDON

Two new businesses — a liquor store and small restaurant — are set to open at Oak Park Plaza in Brandon after the owner of a shopping plaza and nearby homeowners hammered out an agreement.

The often contentious battle over wet-zone permits at the plaza has bounced in and out of county hearings for months.

Residents of Oak Park, a 75-home development behind the plaza, said new businesses selling alcohol would only exacerbate problems with parking, security and noise as a result of existing businesses in the plaza.

The plaza is home to O'Brien's Irish Pub and Family Restaurant and the Shrimp Warehouse, both of which sell alcohol. Two freestanding buildings under construction in the plaza also plan to serve drinks.

In an agreement signed by the homeowners group, the plaza owners are now promising to:

• install speed bumps in the rear of the plaza;

• build a sound wall and change the orientation of live bands that perform at O'Brien's, which will see their music directed away from resident's homes;

• shield lighting from the plaza from residents' homes; and

• improve traffic visibility at the entrance to Oak Park and work to eliminate vehicles that park and idle in the plaza overnight.

"They gave a lot concessions; most of the things we asked for, we got, which really helped a lot," said Wyley Seals, vice president of the Oak Park Homeowners Association. "We already had an agreement with (O'Brien's) and they have been pretty good about it and we haven't had any large noise levels."

Todd Pressman, a lobbyist for the plaza's owners, Winbran Corp., said he thinks the residents' concerns have been addressed.

"We said from the beginning we would be happy to work with the neighbors and make it work for everyone," Pressman said.

"I am pleased with the results and they (Oak Park) Board said they are happy," said attorney Dawn Chapman, who represented the homeowners group in negotiations with Winbran.

Future requests by Winbran are not covered by the agreement, according to Chapman, which also sets timetables for improvements at the plaza.

In May, the county's zoning master ruled against variances that would have allowed alcohol sales at the small Jamaican restaurant and liquor store. Winbran appealed that decision and won, sending the issue back to the county's zoning master.

That hearing, held Monday, looked set to be a rerun of previous meetings with residents turning out en masse to oppose the permits. However, with an agreement signed, no residents showed up.

The hearing master is expected to announce his decision within three weeks.

Pressman expects a thumbs-up this time.

"As soon as we get approval we will start working toward the goals in the agreement," Pressman said.

Kevin Brady can be reached at hillsnews@tampabay.com.

Oak Park Plaza settles dispute with nearby residents 10/18/12 [Last modified: Thursday, October 18, 2012 5:30am]

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