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Developer cancels nursing home plan

About 30 Carrollwood Village residents came ready to do battle Monday night with a developer who wants to build on a sensitive 14-acre parcel off N Dale Mabry Highway. But they never got their opportunity. Instead, developer Vernon Sherman changed his plans. Rather than build a nursing home on the uplands portion of the tract, Sherman decided to go back to his original plan, a commercial development, but with some modifications.

Because of the change, Sherman was granted another continuance by a zoning hearing master. Residents who were ready to criticize the plans instead were angry over another delay in settling the issue.

"The whole issue is to wear people down," said Dr. Robert Neuhardt, a Carrollwood Village resident. "He's never had any plan but commercial on Dale Mabry."

Some of the residents showed their frustration by heckling from the audience, while others registered formal objections to the delay.

Sherman declined to discuss the latest change, but he did say that two earlier continuances were the county's fault, not his. Zoning hearing master John Crislip set a new hearing date of Aug. 5.

The land, originally part of Carrollwood Village, is the focus of a dispute between Sherman and some of the residents who want it to remain undeveloped.

The latest change to Sherman's plans call for him to build a commercial development on property close to the highway, but on a smaller scale than originally envisioned. Details are not complete, said Sherman's attorney, Steve Samaha.

Sherman began negotiating more than three years ago with the Environmental Protection Commission (EPC) to reach an agreement on mitigating damage to wetlands that would allow him to build along Dale Mabry.

Sherman eventually reached an agreement that would require the creation of a man-made swamp in the middle of the property to balance the effect of filling in the wetlands along Dale Mabry.

But he changed his plans because of the residents' opposition, and decided to build a nursing home away from the wetlands.

Last week, the county's zoning staff recommended that Sherman's request to build a nursing home or adult congregate living facility on the uplands portion of the property be denied because it was out of character with the surrounding area, said Steve Allison, principal planner for Hillsborough County.

But before a zoning master could hear testimony on that request, Sherman withdrew it, saying he wanted to go back to his original plan for commercial development of the property, but reduced by 40 percent.

That left the county with no option but to continue the hearing, and residents with no option but to come back in two months.

Their frustration was evident.

"We've been fighting for six years with this man," said Diane Smith, a resident.