1. Archive

Neighbors worry about what might develop

Members of the Burnbrook Homeowners Association worry that affordable housing will be built on Hudson Lane.

The large vacant lot on Hudson Lane has long been a source of uncertainty here.

When, people wonder, will somebody build on it?

Already developers have tried to bring rental housing to Burnbrook, a quiet old neighborhood of single-family homes, but officials denied the necessary rezonings after hearing resident opposition.

Now, after plans for affordable housing in Town 'N Country raised residents' awareness of special permitting breaks that go with such development, people around Hudson Lane worry that a similar project might be coming their way.

The landowner in both cases is the same person _ Jacqueline Chapman of Tampa.

Last month, the county agreed to buy Chapman's 5.5 acres in Town 'N Country for use as a link in a countywide linear trail. Officials made the move after irate neighbors learned, to their great surprise, that Chapman was planning to build up to 30 homes on the land.

Chapman could not be reached for comment, and she has not announced any plans to develop the 26 acres on Hudson Lane.

Still, the Burnbrook Homeowners Association is worried about a "fast-track" permitting system that could result in a permit's being approved for affordable housing on Hudson Lane.

"We fear the Chapmans, now enriched by the county and emboldened by their apparent manipulation of the county staff, will now use the same ploy to develop the adjacent tract with the same disregard of impact on or compatibility with our neighborhood," homeowner association president Michael Cantwell wrote to county commissioners in July.

The County Commission, under heavy pressure in Town 'N Country, voted to pay Chapman $1.3-million for her property on Webb Road. The land had long been slated for a link in the Upper Tampa Bay nature trail. For tax purposes, the Property Appraiser's Office had valued it at $110,000.

Homeowners there were surprised to learn that as county officials waited to collect tax revenues to complete the trail, Chapman had used the fast-track process to secure approval for 30 homes. Under county law, developers can fast track projects if they agree that 20 percent of the homes will be "affordable," according to a formula based on median income.

Under fast-track permitting, there are no public hearings and adjacent homeowners receive no public notice of the developer's plans. The approval process is done through an administrative review with no input from residents.

Homeowners in Burnbrook fear that any project designed to be "affordable" could lower their own property values. For tax purposes, homes on Hudson Lane are appraised at around $150,000 by the county, but records show that many owners paid more than $200,000.

County Commissioner Jim Norman said the board plans to review the fast-track permitting process. "It seems there is a flaw in the system where citizens are left out of the process," he said.

He added that Chapman has made no requests to develop any of the 26 acres on Hudson Lane.

Some Burnbrook homeowners remain distrustful of Chapman and her husband, Clyde Hayward Chapman, because of their earlier attempts to build 485 to 515 apartments on the property in 1990 and 1994. Commissioners voted down both of those rezoning attempts after residents mounted a vigorous opposition.

"It's just plain suspicion on our part based on the track record," Cantwell acknowledged.

"The point is, if you develop next to a community, you should at least let them know what you are going to do and let them be a part of the process so that what you do will not negatively impact their property."

_ If you have a story about Carrollwood, call Tim Grant at 226-3471.