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Planning group rejects rural site for high school

The site chosen for a high school in Lutz fails a crucial requirement of state law, the Hillsborough County City-County Planning Commission decided Monday night.

Voting 8-1, the Planning Commission concluded the former chicken farm on Livingston Avenue would be inconsistent with the county's long-range growth plan as a high school site. Florida law, tightened last year, requires that school sites be consistent with such plans.

The Planning Commission's recommendation goes to the County Commission, which is to make the final decision April 2. Planning staffers warned in a report last week that the high school could spark urban-style development in a semi-rural area and worsen rush hours on two-lane Livingston Road.

The county school system, which is relying on the future school to end double sessions at Northdale's Gaither High School, expressed surprise at the criticisms, saying they were flawed.

Planning commissioners voiced sympathy for the educators' plight, but said they are mandated to look at long-term effects.

"We have to consider what four-laning the road and bringing utilities in does to an area that's desperately trying to hold on to a certain character," said Commissioner Laura Swain of Odessa.

The vote followed three hours of speeches, dominated by 25 Lutz residents on both sides of the issue.


Suspect in holdups

of cleaners foiled

TAMPA _ After six successful hits at a series of McNatt's Cleaners, police on Monday foiled a man they suspect in the crimes from completing his seventh McNatt's robbery.

About 3:45 p.m., the blond, white male in his 20s or early 30s entered the cleaners at 3601 S Westshore Blvd., and as is his custom, flashed a gun in his waistband and demanded money from a clerk, police said.

But before the robber got the loot, employees notified police, who arrived at the scene and chased the suspect on foot. The man, 5-feet-7 and approximately 150 pounds, got into a car and drove away before police were able to catch him. Authorities did not release a description of the getaway car.

It would have been the seventh heist at the chain's 15 Tampa stores in as many weeks.