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White family faces same opposition on zoning

Some had always suspected the reason why residents of Hutchison Road joined forces against the Chesimard family was because they were the only black people on that street.

Now that a white family has tried to get the same zoning approval the Chesimards were seeking for the same property, the Hutchison Road community has reunited to fight them just as fiercely as they fought the Chesimards.

"My feeling is no different than before," said Hutchison Road resident Jean Boyce. "Our property values are at stake. There's a lot of vacant land around here, and if he gets a variance, everybody will."

When Jean-Pierre and Corrine Chesimard tried to subdivide and develop their 2{ acre property, neighbors hired a lawyer and waged a zoning battle that drove the Chesimards into bankruptcy and eventually out of town.

The Chesimards had gotten county approval to subdivide their lakefront property into three parcels and move an existing home on the property to the newly created lot.

However, when neighbors discovered the Chesimards' plans, they convinced the county to rescind its approval. That also meant that the Chesimards had to move the house back to its original site at their own expense.

Unable to foot the $17,000 bill, the Chesimards were not allowed to live in the house they bought. The county refused to let them hook up utility and telephone service, throwing the Chesimards into financial chaos.

Less than a year after the Chesimards lost their home due to foreclosure, the mortgage holders are seeking the same variance that the Chesimards had sought. They are asking the county to reduce the front yard setback by about 15 feet so the house can stay where it is.

"They're the ones who nailed the coffin and now they're dancing on our grave," said Corrine Chesimard, referring to members of the Rodriguez family trust.

The Chesimards are convinced that their mortgage holder, A.H. "Buddy" Rodriguez, played a major role in stalling a settlement the Chesimards were trying to reach with the county before their family went broke.

"I have a mixture of emotions," said Jean-Pierre Chesimard. "I can't believe the gall of them. They were instrumental in getting us out of there. Now he wants to take advantage of what we did.

The Chesimards have since moved to Atlanta. However, Jean-Pierre Chesimard said he will return to Tampa and stand with the same neighbors who once stood against him when county commissioners decide on Rodriguez's request at its land use hearing Monday.

Neither Rodriguez nor his attorney, A.G. Spicola Jr., returned telephone calls this week, but in the rezoning application, they are asking that the county allow the house to stay where it is.

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