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Northdale driving range rejected

NORTHDALE — Hillsborough County commissioners this week unanimously rejected a proposal to bring a golf driving range to residential Northdale.

Developer Stephen Dibbs has approval to develop a 49-home subdivision at the northwest corner of Wilcox and Lake Shore roads, but he had proposed using the 21 acres for a golf training facility until the housing market picked up.

The business was to include baseball batting cages, a chipping and putting green, and a nine-hole golf course. Dibbs once proposed but later dropped the idea of having food, bumper cars and paddleboats, too.

But even scaled back, Dibbs' request was out of synch with the surrounding neighborhood, commissioners said.

"As a former college baseball player, coach and avid golfer, I think it's a wonderful proposal but a horrible location," County Commission Chairman Ken Hagan said. "The project is incompatible and out of character with the single-family homes that surround the parcel."

Neighbors turned out to the County Commission meeting on Tuesday to say that the range would put a commercial operation next to their homes, complete with traffic, exhaust and noise.

Residents also worried that their property values would suffer, that their homeowners' insurance rates would rise, that herbicides, pesticides and fungicides used on the range would taint Lake LeClare, and that errant shots would slice into traffic on Wilcox Road.

"Having the potential for errant and stray golf balls flying across the road or cars having to weave in and out of the road because of the potential of being hit by a golf ball is not a very good idea," said Claude Siler-Nixon, who lives on Foothill Drive.

Planning consultant Steven Allison, who represents Dibbs, said those fears were groundless. The driving range would have an impact "not significantly different than a public park with play fields," he said.

"It's very much in my client's interest to be a good neighbor," Allison said. "He wants the surrounding neighborhood to be using this facility. He wants the neighborhood kids to come over and have something to do in the summer to improve their golf game. He wants it to be a positive for the neighborhood."

Nor would Dibbs pollute the lake, Allison said.

"It's in his interest to keep that lake pristine, and he will do so," he said.

Despite qualified recommendations for approval from the county's planning and growth management staff and a land use hearing officer, commissioners sided with opponents, which included civic associations from Northdale, Keystone and Orange Blossom Creek.

Making the motion for denial, Commissioner Jim Norman said the driving range would change the character of that part of Northdale by cramming a business in among the houses.

"This kind of intrusion, I think, really throws off the balance completely for that community," he said.

Richard Danielson can be reached at danielson@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3403.

if you go

Another Dibbs project to be heard

In a separate land use case, the public hearing for Stephen Dibbs' request to change the rules governing his borrow pit on Lutz-Lake Fern Road has been rescheduled to 6 p.m. July 26 at the County Commission boardroom on the second floor of the County Center, 601 E Kennedy Blvd., Tampa.

Northdale driving range rejected 06/10/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 9, 2010 2:52pm]

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