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Wal-Mart's open, neighbors are watching

Normandie Road used to be a dark street with no sidewalks and overgrown grass, leading to and from Logan Gate Village.

Today, the new sidewalk, landscaping and lights on Normandie Road offer an inviting pathway to the new Buckley/Shuler development on Gunn Highway.

The main attraction? A Wal-Mart Supercenter, which opened officially Wednesday morning.

"The public is using it tremendously," Don Hardy said of the road.

Hardy is president of the special tax district board for Logan Gate Village, the retail giant's closest neighbor.

Homeowners there have been bracing for dramatic changes in their community's traffic patterns, leading up to the store's grand opening.

They have asked county officials to consider a number of traffic calming measures as they prepare for round-the-clock commerce after decades of obscurity.

They've been so proactive that on Monday night, board members voted to nominate themselves for a Hillsborough County Moral Courage Award.

"You've got to blow your own horn sometimes," Hardy said.

The traffic calming requests involve speed tables on Normandie Road, Rosemary Drive, Polly Place and Reef Circle. Logan Gate Village also has asked the county to replace speed limit signs and stop signs that were torn down during construction and not properly reinstalled.

Hardy said Normandie Road also needs No-Parking signs "so that during the Christmas rush we won't be inundated with people parking on our road, which will happen. I'm telling you today it will happen."

Located on the south side of Gunn Highway between Normandie and Henderson roads, the Buckley/Shuler development sits on 68-acres that once were contaminated with heavy metals and other toxic materials.

When Wal-Mart was in the initial stages of planning the shopping center, the company sought a corporate tax break called a "brownfield" designation for cleaning up the land and creating jobs.

Homeowners in Logan Gate Village initially opposed the brownfield designation. Later they agreed to support Wal-Mart, if the company would agree to perform more community improvements than the county requires.

When the retailer sought permission to exceed the county size limits for two outdoor signs, Logan Gate Village remained neutral. The county denied one of those requests, for a 839-square-foot sign out front that is 639 square feet beyond the limit.

The other will be heard on Nov. 7.

The county's Board of Sign Appeals will reconsider the company's second sign request which involves a 322-square-foot sign on Gunn Highway that would exceed the limit by 122 square feet.

Tim Grant can be reached at 269-5311 or at