RUSKIN — A plan to improve the appearance of a stretch of U.S. 41 between Apollo Beach and Ruskin came another step closer to reality last week as community members gathered to discuss potential changes they'd like to see.
The plan to create a zoning overlay district would affect U.S. 41 between Big Bend Road and the Little Manatee River through the regulation of landscaping, architecture and sign design.
On Aug. 25, Hillsborough County officials revealed the results of an online survey of residents' desires. Sixty-one people participated in the survey. Their concerns included landscaping, building and parking design, signs, open storage, and fencing.
Because the district runs through two distinct areas, Ruskin and Apollo Beach, the plan will be customized for each neighborhood's needs, said Jose Fernandez, the project's principal planner.
"The corridor for Apollo Beach and the corridor for Ruskin are totally different," Fernandez said, "and require different things."
Now that priorities have been identified, a committee made up of local property and business owners will decide how to address those issues, Fernandez said.
"This is the framework," he said. "From now on, the committee must decide on what is feasible for the area."
Sam Cook, owner of Sam Cook's Home Service Centre and a member of the committee, said making things easy for property owners is a priority.
"We want to make it beautiful," he said. "But we also know this will affect everyone."
There's still time to provide input for those who live and work in the area. The next meeting is Sept. 29 and will include a survey seeking residents' visual preferences. A final open house is planned for November, before the committee presents its suggestions to the county.
Shelley Rossetter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 661-2442.