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Town 'N Country residents fume over dirt pile

About 60,000 cubic yards of dirt has been heaped onto a vacant lot on Sheldon Road between Cluster Avenue and Flora Street. A zoning official said it presents a hazard to kids.

CARRIE PRATT | Times\uFEFF

About 60,000 cubic yards of dirt has been heaped onto a vacant lot on Sheldon Road between Cluster Avenue and Flora Street. A zoning official said it presents a hazard to kids.

A sky-high pile of dirt on Sheldon Road between Cluster Avenue and Flora Street has neighbors seeing red and county officials seeing code violations.

"It's incredible that this could take place in just a matter of weeks,'' said code enforcement's Gene Minkel. "The dirt pile wasn't approved, and current zoning does not allow it.''

The 60,000 cubic yards of dirt, piled on a vacant lot in a residential neighborhood, came from the Tampa International Airport interchange construction project. The contractor is Flatiron-Tidewater Skanska.

It was Jason's Hauling, however, that dumped the dirt and then told county officials it had a lease agreement with property owners Nicolas and Konstantina Tsokos, Minkel said.

Calls to Jason's Hauling were not returned. Neither were calls to Nicolas Tsokos. Tsokos' attorney, Jack Larkin, declined to comment.

Hillsborough County, meanwhile, has issued a cease and desist order to keep any more dirt from being piled onto the 60-foot mound.

"People keep asking why the county authorized this, but the county has not approved of anything,'' said Christa Hull, environmental supervisor for planning and growth management. "We're trying to enforce our regulations. We're trying to get them to cooperate and restore the property.''

Minkel agreed. The dirt presents a serious problem.

"There's a potential hazard to kids,'' Minkel said. "And in a serious storm there could be movement of earth, it could block drainage, cause flooding and damage to adjacent properties.''

Hull said she will ask the county to fine the property owner for failing to comply with the county's land development code. Fines could go as high as thousands of dollars a day, she said.

The dirt pile also was the subject of a flurry of e-mails among civic leaders in Town 'N Country. They say it gives the community a black eye and is a public hazard.

"It's a classic example of how it's easier to get forgiveness than to get permission,'' said Bill Browne, chairman of the Town 'N Country Alliance.

"How about if they put it next to one of the fairways at Rocky Creek golf course. I think it would be a great hazard for golfers.''

Jackie Ripley can be reached at

ripley@sptimes.com or (813) 269-5308.

Town 'N Country residents fume over dirt pile 03/20/08 [Last modified: Thursday, March 20, 2008 6:00am]
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