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District to charge others to use park

If you want to play at the parks in Tampa Palms, and you don't live there, you're going to have to pay.

The Tampa Palms Community Development District has decided to charge residents who live outside Areas 1 and 2 $300 annually per family for use of Amberly, Hampton and Oak parks. The policy does not affect Compton or River parks, which are operated by the Tampa Palms Owners Association.

On Wednesday, the CDD approved the new policy, which officials said was necessary because the parks were built using tax-exempt bonds. The public, not just those who live in the CDD area, must be given an equal opportunity to use the facilities since public money helped build the parks.

The possibility being considered to keep tabs on users: Ask people at the three parks where they live and issue identification cards to approved users who either live in Areas 1 and 2 or who have paid the $300 fee.

The new policy opens the parks up to the public but requires an assessment similar to what Tampa Palms residents are already contributing to pay off the bonds, which expire in 2008.

"How are you going to police this?" asked Wyndam resident Bill Snyder of the CDD supervisors. "If we're going into the policing business, it's going to cost us."

CDD assistant manager John Daugirda said the details will be worked out later. The main point was to get the policy in place.

"It's something our bond counsel recommends us doing," he said.

The taxing authority doesn't know how many outsiders use the park and doesn't plan to market the parks for outside use. Most supervisors said they doubt many people will actually pay to use the parks, especially considering the much nicer facilities going into newer areas of Tampa Palms.

"I don't see people beating down our door to take advantage" of the parks, said CDD chairman Mark Fitzpatrick.

Club Tampa Palms was recently completed in neighboring Area 4 with three swimming pools, a children's play area, basketball and tennis courts, soccer field and two workout rooms. Workers plan to finish the $6-million New Tampa YMCA, with an Olympic-size swimming pool, this summer. And the city is building a park in Area 8, north of Areas 2 and 4, that it will share with a new high school and middle school site.

Until those projects are complete, supervisors Curtis Stokes and Andy Miller said they see a need to charge for the park use.

"We're going to have the only parks in town in Tampa Palms," Miller said.

Meanwhile, officials with Waterford Construction and Development presented their plans to convert the two-home Somerset subdivision at Bruce B. Downs Boulevard and Amberly Drive into the Somerset Professional Park.

Waterford wants to build about 14 offices, some 37,000 square feet of space, on the 3{-acre parcel, said land-use planner Michael Horner. Each office building would be between 2,000 and 4,500 square feet.

Waterford president John Westfall said the offices would appeal to "doctors, dentists, attorneys, engineers, investment counselors, that type of thing."

Waterford has built about 18 office parks throughout Hillsborough County, including Bearss Point, at the corner of Bearss Avenue and Smitter Road.

Waterford seeks to rezone the property from residential to commercial. Hearings have been set to begin at 6 p.m. April 12 at City Hall.

If the rezoning is approved, Waterford will purchase the two homes in Somerset and convert them to offices.

Waterford also will make a formal presentation to the CDD at 6 p.m. April 11 at Compton Park.

_ Melanie Ave can be reached at (813) 226-3473 or melaniesptimes.com.

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