OLDSMAR — During a concert last October, country singer Toby Keith brought Sgt. Josh Cooley onstage before singing his patriotic hit American Soldier. A former Pasco County sheriff's deputy, the Marine reservist suffered a serious brain injury when a roadside bomb exploded in July 2005 in Iraq.
Todd Adams, a Pinellas County businessman, says that seeing Cooley onstage changed his life.
"I woke up the next morning thinking that there was something I could do," said Adams, 47. "It spawned an idea to put up some housing for vets who are wounded — combat wounded — and we thought we could build each individual house to their need."
Adams wants to build his veteran-inspired housing development, dubbed Heroes Hope, in Oldsmar. On Tuesday, the Oldsmar City Council didn't take a vote but appeared to give an initial nod to Adams' proposal to build 30 single-family homes on 12.7 acres south of Lafayette Boulevard and east of State Street.
The city staff gave the proposed project its blessing. The City Council will address the issue again at its May 15 meeting.
"This is going to be the best thing (for the property)," said Vice Mayor Jerry Beverland.
In 2006, the city approved a development agreement with Adams for 15 homes on the property. Tuesday, Adams asked for permission to build 30 units instead and for the property to be rezoned from estate residential to Planned Unit Development (PUD), which allows more flexible design of the subdivision.
Three neighbors questioned the rezoning and the increased density. They also didn't want large oak trees to be cut down in a proposed 35-foot buffer.
"Some clearing will be done and it would be a shame to take down those old trees," said Kirch Gessner, who lives nearby.
Council member Linda Norris agreed.
"I want to save as many oak trees as we can," she said.
Denise Binette, who also spoke at the meeting, questioned the density of the proposed project in a letter to the City Council.
"We wanted to escape the uniformity of subdivisions and PUDs where each house looks like the other," Binette wrote. "We sought out a neighborhood and a city with more character."
The city staff said the contents of the 2006 agreement for the development are much the same as the one presented Tuesday. Adams agrees to construct the State Street extension south of the Progress Energy easement to Wellington Avenue in return for transportation impact fee credit. He is to complete the construction of a gravity sewer line in return for a credit from the city for wastewater impact fees and to design and install reclaimed water lines.
"If a vet is hurt and wants a piece of property and gets a loan, we will build a house to their needs. Or if they want to bring their own builder in, we will help," Adams said. "Anything we can do for a man or woman who suffers either mentally or physically defending our freedom, we should do it."