Monday, April 23, 2018
News Roundup

Hillsborough development director applicant draws scrutiny

TAMPA — Hillsborough County officials are looking at a curious possibility for leading the office that reviews proposals to build on or develop land.

Among four finalists for the director of development services position is Pete Flint, an executive with Redstone Development, the folks behind one of the most controversial proposed construction projects in years.

Redstone is proposing to bring a possible big-box commercial project and apartment complex on Bloomingdale Avenue that has stirred residential ire and opposition like few others.

Flint said Monday that he had no comment about any controversy about his application.

"I put my name into the hat," Flint said. "I got a call and went in for an interview. I'm just a guy looking at a job."

Neighbors of the potential Redstone development, who have formed a nonprofit group and voted to file a lawsuit challenging the project, say it will add traffic to roads that cannot accommodate what they carry now, and threaten pedestrian safety.

Much more than that, they protest the way the project came about. They say the big-box part of the project in particular was made possible based upon sly changes to the county's development rules.

The changes, affecting how the development can be configured, applied to this parcel of land and no other in Hillsborough County. And they were made in a way that shut out nearby residents from voicing objections in a way that could have made a difference before their approval by commissioners in 2011.

"The community had basically no notice and no meaningful way to engage," said their attorney, Pamela Jo Hatley.

That the county would consider hiring one of Redstone's executives to oversee development review is unfathomable, said David Campo, a development consultant who has followed that project and the county's hiring process closely. He sent an email to county commissioners and other officials Sunday blasting consideration of Flint, who is Redstone's director of development.

The email urged commissioners to ask County Administrator Mike Merrill "what he was thinking … or wasn't thinking."

"I can't imagine why Mike Merrill or (Deputy Administrator) Lucia Garsys would consider the development director of Redstone Development for the director of Development Services," Campo said in an interview Monday.

Merrill said Flint was selected as a finalist by a private headhunter hired by the county to assist with a search. He said a committee of planners and other county employees, as well as representatives of the development industry, met with the candidates last week. Flint was their third-ranked finalist by a consensus vote.

While Merrill said he understands concern about picking someone whose firm may not be popular with some, he said he believes it could be valuable to have someone from the industry in that job. It might have helped avoid the controversy generated by Redstone's Bloomingdale proposal, he said.

That said, while the committee's vote was advisory and Merrill will make the final decision, the vote "will carry great weight."

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