SUN CITY CENTER
As Uta Kurz's golf cart hums to a stop near the end of S Pebble Beach Boulevard, car after car can be heard whooshing by on the other side of a thin line of trees and shrubs.
The noise wafts over from busy U.S. 301, visible through the brush. And that's as close as Kurz wants highway traffic to get.
The road ends in a circular gravel turnaround, and if Kurz has her way, it won't be converted to a "back door" entrance to the Renaissance neighborhoods.
For now, cars access the subdivision from State Road 674 via the mile-long S Pebble Beach Boulevard. Kurz can live with an emergency outlet, but nothing more.
"It's a bad thing because it would bring a lot of traffic in here," says Kurz, who drives her cart on the asphalt while her dog pads along on a leash in the grassy right of way. "We couldn't drive our golf carts (on the road) anymore."
Ed Barnes, Sun City Center Community Association president, and Bill Bullock, a vice president of developer Minto Communities, have heard that sentiment echoed many times, most recently at a town hall meeting last week.
Other residents, though, say an intersection at S Pebble Beach Boulevard and U.S. 301 has been on the books since the early days of Sun City Center development and should be built.
The association mailed ballots last week to its nearly 10,300 members, hoping that a vote will put the matter to rest. To be counted, ballots must be marked and returned to the association by Feb. 23.
Paul Courter, who moved to a neighborhood off S Pebble about 10 years ago, says a second entrance to the south side of the retirement community was a selling point when he bought his home.
"That would reduce traffic on S Pebble Beach Boulevard," he says, predicting that people who live near the end of the boulevard would use the rear entrance to drive on to U.S. 301 when they want to go to Publix or Walmart on Sun City Center's east side.
He suggests that few motorists would speed along the residential street as a shortcut from U.S. 301 to SR 674 because he believes it's faster to travel the state highways. The second entrance shouldn't curtail golf cart use, he adds, calling that threat "a scare tactic."
"It's also a matter of fairness," Courter says of opening a second entrance, noting that developments at Sun City Center's west end, including the gated Kings Point, have back-door access to roads other than SR 674.
Bullock says the debated intersection is shown on a general development plan for the retirement village that goes back decades. The plan requires the developer to build it but does not specify when, Bullock recalls.
When Minto bought the interests of previous developer WCI last summer, representatives asked about plans for the intersection and were told residents had indicated a thumbs-down on the idea.
So in October, Minto submitted a petition to Hillsborough County's Planning and Growth Management Department to change the plan and allow an emergency-only, gated intersection that would satisfy the concerns of public safety officials.
Minto withdrew the petition after only a week or so at the request of the community association. The developer plans to abide by the results of the referendum, Bullock says.
"We don't have a preference," he says. "We're going to do what the majority of residents wants. … What Minto wanted to do (with the petition) was put closure to this open-ended question from the general development plan."
Leaving S Pebble a dead end is not an option for safety reasons, Bullock says.
Barnes said the community association board has taken no stand on the issue.
Residents should have received their ballots by mail and can mail them back or hand-deliver them to the association office in the Atrium Building, at 1009 N Pebble Beach Blvd.
To be counted, ballots must be in the association's hands by 6 p.m. Feb. 23. Polling sites also will be set up, first in the Sandpiper Room of the Atrium Building on Feb. 22 and then at Community Hall at 1910 S Pebble Beach Blvd. on Feb. 23.
For information, call (813) 633-3500.
Susan Green can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.