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Development rejected once makes comeback

Hillsborough County commissioners asked their staff last week to report why a 129-home development in northern Lutz, which they rejected in July, was tentatively approved last month for 122 houses.

While commissioners had voted down a rezoning request for the larger version of Wellington Manors, the staff approved 122 houses under the current zoning. But that zoning, which ordinarily requires minimum lot sizes of 1 acre, was adjusted to {-acre minimums because the developer is preserving 80 acres of wetland as conservation areas. Otherwise, the wetlands would have been preserved, but owned by homeowners as parts of their lots.

The approval drew criticism Wednesday from Denise Layne, president of the Lutz Civic Association. The association had endorsed the development, but Layne criticized the process after the commission's 6-0 vote. She urged that the county's zoning laws be updated to support recent policy changes controlling development in Lutz.

"We've got a problem here," she told commissioners. "It appears that somebody is undermining your decision."

Commissioner Jan Platt asked for a staff report. Commissioner Pat Frank added, "Believe me, this is not going to drop. We're going to have to find out what happened here."

The 186-acre subdivision is planned on narrow, winding Newberger Road. Commissioners had cited the road's crumbling edges in denying the rezoning.

"All you need to do is visit that little road," Commissioner Jim Norman said Wednesday. "I don't see how they're placing homes on that thing."

Bob Gagne, the developer who applied for the permit, could not be reached for comment.

The county's Public Works Department considers Newberger to be safe and in average condition or better. The planners who approve new construction look first at whether a road's counted traffic is close to its official capacity. If there's room for the new traffic, it's allowed.

Dennis Kline, a principal planner with the county, said the Newberger project was reviewed by some of the ranking managers in the department.

"It's been looked at by the county attorney's office and everybody else," he said.

_ Bill Coats can be reached at (813) 226-3469 or coatssptimes.com.

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