LUTZ — Owners of the 20-acre patch of pine trees and scrub said they simply wanted to start a nonprofit soccer camp to give nearby children something healthy and constructive to do. It would be like adding a park to an area of scattered homes, horse farms and subdivisions.
But residents of the neighborhoods that empty on to Hanna Road said the proposed complex would bring dangerous levels of traffic to their narrow streets. Keeping its fields healthy would empty their wells.
"He's trying to force a commercial enterprise into a quiet residential neighborhood, and it's like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole," Olga Gonzalez, a resident of nearby Green Meadow Drive, said of one of the owners. "It just doesn't fit."
Hillsborough County commissioners sided with the neighbors last week, rejecting the property owners' request for a zoning change that would have allowed the soccer complex. The vote was 6-0, with commissioners saying it was clear the private park, with parking for 180 cars, was incompatible with the area and that residents didn't want it.
The site is on the southern edge of Lutz and north of Interstate 275.
The vote came despite recommendations from county planners who said the rezoning could be granted, with conditions, and still comply with the county's over-arching growth guidelines.
"Just because it can be considered doesn't mean it should be approved," said Commission Chairman Ken Hagan. "Frankly, I feel it will destroy the character of that area."
The property in question is owned by Jean Gillen and Charles B. Robinson, according to county records. At Tuesday's commission meeting, land planner Bonne Rubesha said the owners had purchased the property in 2004 believing its low-density residential zoning would allow them to open a soccer camp.
Through the years, she acknowledged, they held periodic practices and games on the property. Some of the games drew complaints from neighbors and the county cited the owners with code violations, saying that type of activity was not permitted.
So the owners were trying to seek a zoning classification that would have allowed the camp. They said they planned to build three outdoor fields, an indoor practice building called a futsal and a home. County planners said the change could be approved if the owners agreed to limit hours of operation, pledged not to put in lighting and took other steps.
Attempts to reach Rubesha and the owners later in the week to ask them their future plans were unsuccessful.
Bill Varian can be reached at (813) 226-3387 or [email protected].com.