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Proposed village for homeless in Hillsborough County dealt another blow

TAMPA — A proposal to build a homeless village in Hillsborough County hit another snag this week.

In a 20-page report issued Wednesday, land use hearing officer James Scarola recommended that county commissioners deny Catholic Charities' request to provide temporary housing for the homeless.

The group has asked for zoning that would allow it to use 12 acres at E Hillsborough Avenue and Harney Road as a campground for 250 people for up to 90 days at a time.

Unless commissioners create an exception to housing standards, Scarola noted that "there is not currently a process in Hills­borough County that fits" the building of such a facility.

He also wrote that the proposed location did not match the surrounding residential and light industrial uses.

The 12-acre site is owned by the St. Petersburg Diocese of the Catholic Church. The group envisions a project similar to Pinellas Hope, a 250-bed shelter that opened December 2007.

Catholic Charities is part of the St. Petersburg Diocese that covers Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco, Hernando and Citrus counties.

With nearly 10,000 homeless people in the county, proponents said the Hillsborough Cares project is desperately needed.

At a hearing last month, nearby East Lake Park residents and business owners said they were fearful of decreased property values and increased crime. Some opponents have called the proposed facility a "Third World shantytown" that would serve as a "cheap fix for a long-term problem."

At the time, county planners also recommended that the project be denied.

Because of that, Wednesday's report wasn't a surprise, said Frank Murphy, a Catholic Charities spokesman.

"We're going to go over it with our legal counsel, see what it says and what the possibilities are," Murphy said. "But it's a big issue that's not going away. We have a small city of almost 10,000 homeless in Hillsborough County. We'll see how the County Commission feels."

Commissioners are expected to vote on the project next month.

Chandra Broadwater can be reached at cbroadwater@sptimes.com or (727) 661-2454.

Proposed village for homeless in Hillsborough County dealt another blow 06/10/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 10, 2009 9:51pm]
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