TOWN 'N COUNTRY — About 10 years ago a group of residents came together, pooled their own money and purchased five signs that would issue a welcome and designate the boundaries of Town 'N Country, one of the oldest communities in northwest Hillsborough.
But through the years, the signs began disappearing.
Details are sketchy at best as to what exactly happened to them. One was hit by a car, another destroyed by vandals, so the story goes.
Until a few weeks ago, one sign had managed to hang on.
It was white with green lettering that read "Welcome to Town & Country," and sat just south of the Sheldon Road and Linebaugh Avenue intersection.
"It was a thing of pride," said Carlton Lewis, the vice chairman of the Town & Country Alliance. "You put something up, you know where your neighborhood is."
It was Lewis who used $180 of his own money to purchase the Sheldon-Linebaugh sign.
So it was jolting when, on a recent trip past the sign's location, he noticed it was missing.
Construction was taking place in the area, so he figured the workers had removed it.
County officials learned that the sign was missing and, after a brief investigation, the contractor, Rippa & Associates, admitted removing the sign during construction.
It had to be removed to install a new bus bay being built at the location. The company saved the pole the sign hung on, but when workers looked for the actual sign plate, it couldn't be found, said Steve Valdez, manager for the county's Public Works Department.
A new sign had to be made and was to go up this week.
The missing-sign ordeal may be settled in Lewis' eyes, but the incident has sparked a larger conversation in the community about whether Town 'N Country should increase the signs designating its borders.
"Delineating of territory is very important to people," said Lewis, 61.
"Defined boundaries have a bearing on political and civic identity."
The boundaries of Town 'N Country have always been debated. Where does it begin? Where does it end? What's in the middle?
According to county documents, Town 'N Country stretches roughly from Sheldon Road east to the Veterans Expressway, and from Tampa Bay north to Linebaugh Avenue.
But do outsiders actually know when they've entered Town 'N Country?
No, said Kurt Anderson, president of the Town 'N Country Rotary Club.
"I think there needs to be signage," said Anderson, whose group was founded more than 20 years ago.
"It's established in the sense that it's been there for years, but most people don't realize when they're in the Town 'N Country area; they're just passing through from Tampa."
Anderson said he would welcome collaborating with others in the community to replace some of the former signs.
But Paul McShea, president of the Town 'N Country Park Civic Association, doesn't see the need.
"There's a lot of traffic that comes through our area that's headed to the newer developments to the north and northwest," McShea said.
"Everyone is well aware of what we are and the name of the community. We're well established."
McShea added that the tough economic times prevent the association's ability to purchase more signs.
But there may be a glimmer of hope for the signs yet.
In Hillsborough County's community overlay plan for Town 'N Country, there are plans for two signs welcoming motorists to the area.
One would be placed at the Veterans Expressway at Hillsborough Avenue, and another one at Hillsborough Avenue and Rocky Creek.
There is no timetable for the sign plan.
Nicole Hutcheson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3405.