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Residents push for lower density for development

Here on Wilcox and Lake Shore roads, there is another side to the Keystone Community Plan.

Much of this neighborhood east of the Veterans Expressway is consumed by tidy subdivisions with small yards. But while the plan emphasizes large lots, residents here are no less concerned about density.

In recent weeks an outspoken coalition of subdivision residents and individual homeowners along Lake LeClaire has formed. They are opposing a proposed 52-home development at the corner of Wilcox and Lake Shore.

The homeowners are not against Joseph Militello's efforts to develop his 18.6-acre pasture south of Lake LeClaire. They just want him to build fewer houses.

Some of Militello's more outspoken neighbors showed up at the County Government Center Monday night, urging Zoning Hearing Master Andrew Baker to take their concerns to heart as he considers a rezoning that would carve out a planned development on land currently zoned both agricultural and residential.

Before the hearing, residents haggled with Militello's attorney, Keith Bricklemyer.

John Miliziano voiced the neighborhood's general concerns, saying the proposed subdivision, The Reserve at Lake LeClaire, would reduce home values in the neighborhood and create traffic problems.

"All we're asking is for them to modify it a bit," he said after speaking with Bricklemyer. "Doesn't seem like there's any compromising it."

Bricklemyer, who handles many land use cases in Keystone, told Baker the "project is not big enough to fight about."

While current zoning allows four units-per-acre The Reserve would have 2.8 units-per-acre, as well as six larger lakefront lots. Using the nearby Longboat Landing subdivision on Wilcox as an upscale model, Bricklemyer told Baker The Reserve is "100 percent consistent with the pattern in the area."

The project is backed by the county's Department of Planning and Growth Management and the City-County Planning Commission.

Joe Trumbach, director of the Belle Glenn Homeowners Association, presented Baker with a detailed letter signed by the heads of the four surrounding homeowners associations, asking him to propose reducing the number of lots to 42. The letter also asks that Militello be required to take several steps to enhance the property: build two entrances to the subdivision, erect a 6-foot fence around the property and construct sidewalks along Wilcox and Lake Shore.

The land contains an inactive borrow pit. Although Bricklemyer argued the neighborhood will be better off when the borrow pit is filled to make room for the houses, some residents said they worried about the stability of the property.

If the rezoning is approved, the property would have to undergo a technical analysis by the county's Environmental Protection Commission.

Barbara Dowling, who owns one of the lakefront homes south of Wilcox, asked for even fewer homes than her neighbors. Her wish list to Baker also included natural buffering instead of a fence and individual driveways along Wilcox.

Her husband, Tom Aderhold, said any rezoning should require minimum lakefront lot widths of 100 feet and a vegetative buffer to protect water quality.

"I think it's (the proposal) a poor attempt at transitioning and compatibility," Dowling told Baker. "Please bring the lot numbers down to the 30s and limit lakefront lots to two."

The Hillsborough County Commission is scheduled to make a final decision in January.