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Residents speak out against school site

(ran NTP edition)

About 150 residents turned out to bend the ear of Hillsborough County Commissioner Jim Norman on Thursday night.

To no one's surprise, their concerns focused on limiting growth _ so much so there was even a group there to protest plans to build a middle school near the west end of Lutz-Lake Fern Road.

"There are a lot of wetlands and dangerous curves and deep drainage ditches" along Lutz-Lake Fern Road, resident Ginger Bennett said.

The group does not oppose an elementary school, to be built inside Fern Ridge, a future subdivision of 130 homes. But it opposes the proposed middle school, which would be on the north side of Lutz-Lake Fern, in the middle of the Whispering Pines subdivision.

Norman, whose district includes the Keystone and Odessa areas, fielded questions on everything from impact fees to stormwater runoff.

But when it came to the school site, Norman passed because of potential conflict of interest if the site goes before the County Commission on appeal. Instead, Norman suggested the residents invite their School Board representative to a town meeting such as the one Thursday night at the American Legion Hall on Gunn Highway.

"The School Board runs for office," Norman said. "You have a representative on the School Board. You need to invite them here. Let folks know you're united. Talk to them, let them know your concerns."

Many residents held out little hope on that front.

"Our County Commission listens," said Denise Layne, president of the Lutz Civic Association. "The School Board and administration dig in their heels. They don't listen."

After the meeting with Norman, the residents _ dubbed the Keystone Alliance _ protesting the school site presented their concerns to the Keystone Civic Association and received its backing.

"We wanted to make sure everybody was well-informed," Bennett said. The School Board "is not picking good sites."

_ If you have a story about Keystone/Odessa call Jackie Ripley at 226-3468.