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Land O'Lakes seeks out itself

(ran PC edition)

As Bradley Arthur brainstormed Tuesday night for ways to create a sense of community in this area, he insisted he could smell a little bit of 1776 in the air.

"Look at this," the Land O'Lakes sculptor said, pointing to the roughly 40 other people around him. "This could be a scene from 200 years ago. This could be the Founding Fathers saying, "Let's get a plan.' "

Hold the revolution, but some members of the Land O'Lakes community are beginning to think they can find an answer to the questions "What is Land O'Lakes?" and "Where is Land O'Lakes?"

A group, which aims to develop a community plan it will submit to the county, met for the third time Tuesday night at its largest and first widely promoted gathering. Those attending the meeting at the Pasco County School Board offices developed a four-pronged plan of attack: beautify U.S. 41, manage growth, develop a town center and establish a town identity.

"Look around you," Arthur told the group. "We are the town center. This is what we are seeking to create over and over again _ an environment where people care about where they live."

The cause drew a mix of people: an accountant, a Land O'Lakes Fire Rescue lieutenant, an auto parts distributor, retirees and even the area's honorary mayor. County Commissioner Pat Mulieri attended, and representatives from the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council ran the nearly three-hour meeting.

Most of the time, the group listed ideas, but a few of those ideas emerged with strong support during an informal poll at the end of the meeting:

Building a central band shell or gazebo.

Connecting the parking lots along U.S. 41 so drivers could go from one building to the next without getting back into traffic.

Protecting the existing natural resources.

Supporting the proposed Heritage Park, a cluster of log-cabin homes to serve as a museum highlighting local history.

Some people even pushed for the town to incorporate. And as long as they were talking about that, others suggested a city hall with a clock tower on top.

Mostly, the participants brought ideas from other cities they had visited. They like the traditional trees of Jupiter, the large central playground in Marietta, Ga., the waterfront theme of Savannah, Ga., and the accessible parking in Dade City.

"I was in Dade City the other day with my daughter and she said, "You can park the car and walk around,' " said Arthur, who helped run the meeting. "She could not get over the fact that you can walk around."

Many fashioned their thoughts with nearby Lutz in mind.

"Years ago there was no town center to Lutz," said the group's organizer, Joanne Hurley, who also serves as the spokeswoman for the Suncoast Parkway project. "It was just a spot along U.S. 41."

The group has grown from a gathering of residents on School Road who banded together last year to prevent the development of a supermarket at U.S. 41 and Bell Lake Road, Hurley said.

The next meeting will be at 7 p.m. July 31 in the Land O'Lakes Community Center on 41.

_ Ryan Davis can be reached toll-free at (800) 333-7505, ext. 3452.