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Plans filed for major retail center

A 198,164-square-foot development may be built on the U.S. 19 site where a Wal-Mart Supercenter was once planned.

The rumored plans of a strip mall north of Scotty's became official last week, as county officials received the blueprint for a proposed 198,164-square-foot retail center on the former Wal-Mart Supercenter site west of U.S. 19.

The plans show three buildings: a 139,750-square-foot block on the north end of the property, a 52,464-square-foot building immediately to the south, and a 5,950-square-foot store along U.S. 19.

Before any buildings go up, however, the County Commission must decide whether to expand the commercial zoning on the site into adjacent wetlands to accommodate the proposed development.

The 400-foot-wide band fronting U.S. 19, roughly the front third of the 37-acre site, is already zoned for general commercial use. The proposal is to rezone 9.93 acres of adjoining land to the west from low-density residential to general commercial, impacting 2.33 acres of wetlands.

Unlike the 281,000-square-foot Wal-Mart Supercenter that was once planned for the site, the retail center would not encroach on the rear third of the property, where most of the wetlands are.

"They're hoping not to touch this area, though it will be used for drainage retention," senior county planner Jenette Collins said.

"They," for now, are unnamed developers. The application was filed by Heritage Development Co., the Ohio parent company of Crystal River Limited Partnership, which owns the land. Heritage Development president John McGill did not return a call Tuesday for comment.

No store names are listed on the plans, either, although an engineer for the developer threw out names such as Old Navy, T.J. Maxx, PetsMart, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Office Depot during a preapplication meeting last month, county planner Joanna Coutu said.

Because the rezoning request is under 10 acres, it will not need the approval of the state Department of Community Affairs, the agency that gave a blistering review two years ago of Wal-Mart's plans to develop the site.

But it will go through a series of public hearings. The application is tentatively scheduled to come before the county Planning and Development Review Board on May 3 and May 17, and before the County Commission June 12 and July 10, Collins said.

Those dates could change, she said, if the traffic analysis or biological survey of the site is not done in time.