OLDSMAR — Two evenings ago, Denise Binette sat on her back porch, as she loves to do, and noticed an armadillo crawling through her oak, palm and pine trees.
It's this view — about 100 feet of nature — Binette sought to defend Tuesday night at the City Council meeting.
A developer recently asked for a 15-foot reduction in the buffer between a proposed upscale neighborhood on just over 10 acres east of State Street, and five homes on Lafayette Boulevard, including Binette's lot.
Four of her neighbors, whose yards would also border Wellington Estates, spoke Tuesday to bolster her request for a 35-foot buffer, per city code, rather than the 20-foot buffer the developer wants to build.
"We want to preserve the trees and wildlife," Binette, 54, said. "I don't want to look in my back yard and see someone's pool."
But Marie Dauphinais, director of planning and redevelopment, said ultimately, the City Council has the ability to grant variances.
"You could argue that a 20-foot buffer, in this case, is reasonable," she said. "This is single-family homes abutting single-family homes. Not single-family homes abutting apartment or commercial buildings."
Vice Mayor Jerry Beverland turned to a representative of the developer.
"Is a 35-foot buffer feasible?"
Peter Pensa of the Avid Group of Palm Harbor, the engineers on the project, said adding 15 feet would result in a loss of four homes — a costly blow.
Still, he said, the developer will work toward a compromise.
"We'd provide a solid visual screen between the properties," he said, adding any damaged trees would be replaced.
If plans are approved, Wellington Estates should have lots available for purchase by September, Christopher Koncal, a representative of development partner the Barclay Group in Palm Harbor, announced in January.
The 30-home development, an M/I Homes project, will offer 2,500- to 3,500-square-foot houses in the $350,000 to $450,000 price range. Lots will be 65 feet wide and 120 feet deep.
Three retention ponds will catch excess storm water. Park benches, acorn lighting and bike paths will follow the downtown State Street theme.
The City Council will vote on the plans after a second public hearing Feb. 20.
Danielle Paquette can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4224. To write a letter to the editor, go to tampabay.com/letters.