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Uncertainty worries neighbors of Tarpon Springs preservation area

TARPON SPRINGS — When Christine Sanchez and her husband moved from New York 12 years ago, they were eager to escape city life and find a quiet community where they could raise their children.

So they built a house on a quiet tree-lined cul-de-sac west of Alt. U.S. 19 and faced it north, toward 50 acres of preservation area.

Then recently, Sanchez said, she received an alarming notice in the mail that a 126-unit affordable apartment complex might be in the works for the property.

The issue came up at a homeowners association meeting, and several people voiced concerns. Some were surprised that a portion of the property was zoned for development.

"We paid $12,000 more for this property because of the wooded lot," said Sanchez, standing in her driveway and gesturing at cypress trees and other wildlife.

In recent months, neighbors near the wooded preservation area on Alt. U.S. 19 north of Klosterman Road have received limited information about plans for the new apartment complex, fueling uncertainty about whether the proposed development might jeopardize the safety and tranquility of their quiet neighborhoods.

But plans submitted to the county show that the proposed seven-story building would butt up against Alt. U.S. 19, and may not be visible from most of the surrounding residential areas, which include Liam Avenue and Denise Street.

"Those back yards are almost 2,000 linear feet away from the lots" where the apartments are planned, said Katie Cole, an attorney for the developers. "There was never any proposal to do construction in the preservation area."

County commissioners are scheduled to discuss Nov. 19 whether to change the zoning from commercial to residential on 6.7 acres of the property not zoned for preservation.

Pinellas County's Local Planning Agency, which hears proposals before they reach the County Commission, recommended approval unanimously with only a short discussion about the acres of wetlands.

Developers John and Bonnie Mills have paid for a "jurisdictional survey" to determine the exact locations of the wetlands.

The rest of the property will remain untouched, Cole said.

A previous proposal by the developer included a road, she said, but the plan was revised to avoid impacting the wetlands. The area is sensitive to develop, with significant storm water concerns and other issues, she said.

Brittany Alana Davis can be reached at bdavis@tampabay.com or 727-445-5155. To write a letter to the editor, visit tampabay.com/letters.

Uncertainty worries neighbors of Tarpon Springs preservation area 10/29/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 29, 2013 6:19pm]

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