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Oldsmar objects to plan for new homes

A proposal for a subdivision on coastal land at the border of Oldsmar and Hillsborough County has some neighbors and the city worried that it would harm the area's rustic feel.

The proposal calls for a 26-lot subdivision on about 30 acres at the top of Mobbly Bay in Hillsborough. The owner of the site, Roger Kumar, is asking the county to rezone his land to allow the upscale neighborhood at the southern end of Race Track Road.

At a zoning hearing Monday night in Tampa, critics told Hillsborough officials that the development does not fit the area.

"The city of Oldsmar does object to the 26-lot subdivision," Oldsmar community development director Nick Staszko told Hillsborough Zoning Hearing Master James Scarola.

Oldsmar lobbied against the proposed subdivision because it would be adjacent to the 220-acre Mobbly Bayou Wilderness Preserve, a joint project of the city and Pinellas County. A neighborhood that close to the preserve may be harmful to the environmentally sensitive land, Staszko said.

"Between the city of Oldsmar and Pinellas County, we have invested approximately $3-million to acquire the 220 acres that I mentioned earlier," Staszko said. "It is a pristine area of North Pinellas County and north Hillsborough County."

Some residents also complained that the proposal would affect the surrounding neighborhood of homes on large lots with farm animals and wooden fences.

"If this is approved, it will be a shame," said Susan Martin, who lives nearby on Race Track Road. "It's not compatible with the area. The proposed development negatively impacts the rural character of the neighborhood."

Kumar said he has tried to compromise with residents. Originally, the plan called for a 70-home subdivision, but that was downsized to 26 lots after county planners advised him that a lower density would be more appropriate.

"I have tried to make it as compatible and as low-density as I could," said Kumar, who has lived in Oldsmar since the early 1960s and is the former owner of the Safety Harbor Resort and Spa. "Still some of them are not happy. I don't know what to do. I'm trying to do what is good."

Kumar's planners pointed out that the county's comprehensive plan allows for up to 118 homes on the property, which is "much more than what we are proposing for that site," said Vincent Marchetti, who represents Kumar.

The proposed neighborhood would have a boardwalk that meanders through a wetland area next to the bay. The plan also calls for the homes getting sewer and water services from Hillsborough.

The zoning hearing master has three weeks to come up with a recommendation for the plan, which will be submitted to the county commissioners. The commission is scheduled to discuss Kumar's rezoning request Sept. 11.