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Commission sets development standard

Hillsborough County commissioners agreed on new guidelines Thursday ensuring that future development in Keystone, Odessa and Lutz will maintain those communities' rural character.

"We are absolutely thrilled," said Keystone activist Laura Swain, who helped conceive and draft the Keystone-Odessa Community Plan. "We worked for 15 years to get to this point; it's been a long, long road."

Commissioners approved the plan 5-1, with Ronda Storms, who questioned some of the requirements, opposing.

The standards take effect Oct. 1.

Guidelines include a two-story and 7,500-square-foot limit on new commercial buildings in Keystone and Odessa, and a 20,000-square-foot limit in Lutz. Swain hopes such requirements will prompt chain businesses to more closely study the market before moving in.

"This is not going to be an easy sell anymore to the chains," she said. "They have to really, really want to be here."

The plan also requires community meetings on sidewalk projects to allow residents a voice on their need and potential placement. Swain said the area has a problem with stretches of sidewalk that do not connect. In some places, she said, they often are underwater.

Keystone also requires new commercial projects with multiple buildings to be connected by covered walkways. Most of the rules affect commercial projects but some do relate to residential development.

"These standards might not work everywhere, but they work here," Swain said. "We've got to change how we are developing this county. Builders and developers have had free rein for years, and look what they've done with that. They have not been good stewards."

Office honors community for Sept. 11th fundraiser

WESTCHASE _ For the second year in a row, Westchase was honored by the Hillsborough County Office of Neighborhood Relations in the best special event category of its Neighborhood Recognition Awards. The community was recognized for its Sept. 11th fundraiser, which was organized entirely by local residents.

Spearheading the project were April Rosen and Angie Whitmore, both residents of West Park Village. The fundraiser, put on with the help of hundreds of Westchase volunteers and local businesses, generated more than $19,000 for victims of the terror attacks.

Westchase won the award last year for its annual blood drive.

Activist group creates Web site to help voters

NEW TAMPA _ New Tampa Votes, the non-partisan political activist group, has launched a new Web site designed to get out the vote in New Tampa.

David Larson, manager of the Wingate Hotel, created the site: It includes information about poll sites, voter registration deadlines, absentee ballots, and candidates for city and county races.