KEYSTONE — A two-year dispute over allowing dump trucks on Lutz-Lake Fern Road is rumbling back to life.
In February, developer Stephen J. Dibbs got county permission to excavate up to 2.5-million cubic yards of dirt from 320 acres he owns on the north side of the road, just west of the Suncoast Parkway.
That permission came with restrictions on when dump trucks could roll out of Dibbs' property and where they could go.
Now Dibbs wants to change some of those conditions. Specifically, he has applied to the county to:
• Allow trucks from his site to go both east and west on Lutz-Lake Fern Road.
• Remove the limits on which projects he can provide with dirt.
Until a new interchange onto the parkway opens, the county restrictions allow dirt from Dibbs' borrow pit to go only to three projects: the construction of the interchange itself, Steinbrenner High School and the future widening of Lutz-Lake Fern Road east to N Dale Mabry Highway.
The proposal is scheduled for a public hearing at 6 p.m. Nov. 18.
As in the past, neighborhood groups plan to oppose Dibbs' request. "There is no condition that he is applying for now that we would agree to," said Tom Aderhold, president of the Keystone Civic Association.
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Dibbs is seeking to provide dirt to other projects because the contractor working on Race Track Road wants to buy dirt from him.
If the contractor doesn't use Dibbs' dirt, dump trucks will have to go to a borrow pit near Dade City, according to the application. That would add nearly 54 miles to the round trip, requiring nearly 77,000 more gallons of diesel fuel.
"It makes sense, when spending public dollars, to spend as few as you need to for any public works project," said Steve Allison, Dibbs' consultant on the application.
But Aderhold questions whether there are other borrow pits closer to Race Track Road than Dade City. And he said fuel consumption is not germane to the permitting process.
"It sounds good," he said. "The bottom line is, it's irrelevant."
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Dibbs' application contends that other borrow pits do not face the same restrictions, such as the ban on any trucks going west on Lutz-Lake Fern Road.
"We question whether that is an appropriate and legally valid condition," Allison said.
An estimated 4 percent of the traffic on Lutz-Lake Fern already consists of heavy trucks, according to the application.
Under the county's truck route plan, some trucks are allowed on Lutz-Lake Fern and others are not. It depends on where they came from and where they are going.
Since 1995, Hillsborough County's truck route plan has sought to steer truck traffic away from neighborhoods while respecting the right of truckers to deliver to any address in the county.
Here's how it works: Some county roads are designated as truck routes. In northwest Hills- borough, the truck routes closest to Dibbs' property include Van Dyke Road, Tarpon Springs Road, Dale Mabry Highway and the Veterans Expressway.
Lutz-Lake Fern Road is not a truck route, but trucks can still use it as long as they are delivering something to an address not accessible by a truck route.
In other words, it's okay to leave a truck route and deliver something to an address that's not on a truck route. It's also okay for truckers to start from an address not on a truck route and get onto a truck route to go someplace.
What's not okay is driving on a truck route, leaving it, and then getting onto another truck route. That's when a truck becomes a "through" truck — as in, it's driving through the neighborhood. And through trucks are not allowed on Lutz-Lake Fern.
A sheriff's deputy who has worked in northwest Hillsborough for two decades said Lutz-Lake Fern Road has some illegal truck traffic, but it's probably a small percentage. Gunn Highway, Deputy Steve Favors said, is worse, with perhaps half the heavy trucks there violating the truck route plan.
Dibbs' application seeks to remove the restrictions on which direction on Lutz-Lake Fern his trucks can go. Instead, he asks that traffic from his site be governed by the county truck plan.
Aderhold said Lutz-Lake Fern and roads connected to it are not truck routes for a good reason.
"Every road those trucks would use is two-laned," he said, "and they're not designed at all to withstand the wear and tear that would be put on them by those trucks."
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Dibbs also proposes to move a wall that would be required between his borrow pit and the neighborhood immediately to the north, Ivy Lake Estates, just across the Hillsborough-Pasco county line.
The Ivy Lake Estates Association opposes the change. Residents say relocating the wall would move the whole operation closer to some Ivy Lake Estates homes.
"We just want to make sure we protect Ivy Lake Estates as much as possible from his pit," said resident Wayne Gaskill, a member of the neighborhood committee monitoring the Dibbs project.