Over the last 16 months, three east Hillsborough County communities _ Riverview, Ruskin and Apollo Beach _ have drafted long-range growth plans designed to give residents a greater say in how their land, homes, streets and infrastructure are developed in the future. The three plans are part of the SouthShore Areawide Systems Plan, which also covers Gibsonton, Sun City Center and Wimauma. Each community has its own unique characteristics. Here are some of the finer points of the Riverview, Ruskin and Apollo Beach plans.
FIRST PUBLIC MEETING: Oct. 14, 2003
BOUNDARIES: South of Big Bend Road; west of U.S. 301 and I-75; north of 19th Avenue NE.
SQUARE MILES AFFECTED: Approximately 24
HOW THE COMMUNITY SEES ITSELF: "Apollo Beach is no longer characterized as simply a small town but has instead evolved into a vibrant, well-balanced community..."
NUMBER OF SPECIFIC GOALS: 9
AREA OF CONCENTRATION: Encourage a high-quality environment that enhances residential neighborhoods, commercial areas, preserves, open spaces and local character. Improve public areas, including entryways, streets and edges of the community. Help preserve environmentally sensitive lands.
ARCHITECTURAL CHARACTER: Residents have outlined strategies to maintain the small-town charm of the community including improve sidewalks, landscaping, curbs and gutters along Apollo Beach Boulevard and bury electrical lines; develop sign regulations; promote beautification and landscaping of thoroughfares. Use homeowner, civic and business associations to help improve the appearance of neighborhood and commercial areas and raise property values.
TRANSPORTATION: Residents want an interconnected road and highway system and to reduce traffic congestion. Improve sidewalks and provide bicycle lanes on Miller Mac Road. Push for an I-75 interchange at or near the Apollo Beach Boulevard extension. Require new developments to connect to one another. Support mass transit opportunities that include buses, light-rail and water shuttles. Require future development between the CSX rail line and U.S. 41 to reserve areas for commuter rail access.
BUSINESS: Office and corporate centers with a vibrant mix of employees, high school and college students and cultural arts patrons. The plan emphasizes support for small and local businesses, promotes redevelopment and encourages high-tech industry. Preserve areas for future light industrial use near Big Bend Road and U.S. 41.
ENVIRONMENT: Enhance community identity by developing a greenway system that links community parks, nature preserve trails and beaches to one another and the area's greenway network. Promote the health of water, air and natural shorelines. Continue to acquire environmentally sensitive lands; establish stormwater management facilities that will protect the canals.
POTENTIAL ROADBLOCKS: None have been identified.
WHAT RESIDENTS HAVE TO SAY ABOUT THE PLAN: Resident and civic president John G. Evon said he and other residents want to improve transportation and encourage residential development that is in keeping with the styles of older, restored homes. "We don't want condos that stick out like a sore thumb in our area," he said. "We're trying to create a small-town atmosphere, not a tourist trap. We want Apollo Beach to be a place where families want to come and live."
_ EDDY RAMIREZ
FIRST PUBLIC MEETING: May 22, 2003
BOUNDARIES: South of Bloomingdale Avenue and the Alafia River; west of Balm Boyette and Boyette Road; east of Interstate 75; north of Bullfrog Creek and State Road 672.
SQUARE MILES AFFECTED: 55
HOW THE COMMUNITY SEES ITSELF: "As the community has grown, Riverview's small-town charm and atmosphere has been maintained. ... A strong sense of "community identity' and spirit, with versatile recreational and economic opportunities as well as cultural and educational resources, stimulates both the young and elderly."
NUMBER OF SPECIFIC GOALS: 13
AREA OF CONCENTRATION: Residents outlined bold plans to create gateway entrances along the U.S. 301 corridor, a mixed-use area with high densities and a variety of businesses. The gateways are the beginning of a pleasant drive or walk along well-maintained, tree-lined streets with center medians, bike lanes, sidewalks, crosswalks, adequate lighting and traffic signals. The historical buildings have been marked and maintained to indicate their historical importance.
ARCHITECTURAL CHARACTER: Build on recognizable themes and design elements that reflect historic landmarks, architecture and heritage of Riverview. Develop sign standards that prohibit pole signs and require monument signs. Avoid strip development patterns for commercial uses; promote diverse housing styles; require natural stormwater retention facilities.
TRANSPORTATION: Safe, attractive, efficient transportation, including vehicular, bicycle/pedestrian and mass transit. Consider building a bridge across the Alafia as an alternative north-south transportation route. Remove roadside vendors at busy intersections; establish pedestrian crossings on U.S. 301 to facilitate access to retail and other destinations.
BUSINESS: Support local businesses while attracting a variety of new uses and services, particularly high-technology industry. Provide state-of-the-art infrastructure; encourage clean industries that provide local well-paying jobs. Provide incentives to attract employment centers.
ENVIRONMENT: Promote education and awareness programs to promote conservation and to protect water quality and environmental resources. Limit density of development along the Alafia; protect water quality and wildlife habitat tied to the Alafia watershed. Acquire and protect environmentally sensitive land.
POTENTIAL ROADBLOCKS: None have been identified.
WHAT RESIDENTS HAVE TO SAY ABOUT THE PLAN: "We haven't always agreed, but we've come to consensus in a very strong way," said Ron Proulx. "You always wish there were more stakeholders involved. We had reasonable representation. Different faces came in and out through the process. It was a long process. Tedious. But well worthwhile."
_ JAY CRIDLIN
FIRST PUBLIC MEETING: May 6, 2003
BOUNDARIES: North of the Little Manatee River, south of 19th Avenue, east of I-75 to the south of College Avenue and east of 36th Street SE to the north of College Avenue.
SQUARE MILES AFFECTED: Approximately 21
HOW THE COMMUNITY SEES ITSELF: "Ruskin will continue to be a community that preserves its small-town character. ... The Ruskin community values nature above commercialism; dark, star-filled skies at night above the glare of urban lights; and the sound of crickets and frogs above the noise of traffic."
NUMBER OF SPECIFIC GOALS: 10
AREA OF CONCENTRATION: Top priority is to protect and preserve natural resources, including the pristine Little Manatee River corridor, which is teeming with life; Marsh Creek and the public lands around it; Cockroach Bay Aquatic Preserve; the Tampa Bay estuary. To become a destination for eco-tourism. Highlight and encourage the community's multiculturalism.
ARCHITECTURAL CHARACTER: Limit height of new residential development to 50 feet, unless a more restrictive limitation exists. Promote beautification and landscaping along U.S. 41, College Avenue and Shell Point Road. Prohibit pole signs and limit ground signs to 8-feet high.
TRANSPORTATION: Maintain a low volume of traffic; preserve and enhance the traditional grid road pattern; limit U.S. 41 to two through lanes in each direction and develop other alternate routes.
BUSINESS: Support eco-tourism; ensure that areas are zoned for office and light industrial development; avoid strip malls in future commercial development.
ENVIRONMENT: Planners envision a community with trees and lush landscapes of native Florida plants. Continue to acquire and to restore environmentally valuable or sensitive lands. Minimize impact of recreation facilities on the Little Manatee River by encouraging passive uses such as hiking, nature study, fishing and canoeing.
HOUSING: Discourage design features such as walls and gates that isolate developments; recognize the four distinct neighborhood areas depicted on the Ruskin Neighborhood Area Map.
POTENTIAL ROADBLOCKS: Deseret Farms, which owns land in a region that Ruskin planners hope to set aside for low-impact growth, wants out from the Ruskin plan. Farm managers are worried that the development restrictions would make the property less desirable to sell.
WHAT RESIDENTS HAVE TO SAY ABOUT THE PLAN: "The key component ... most people felt was the revitalization of the downtown business center, the core part of Ruskin," Wade Clark, a participant in the planning process, said recently. He noted that planners hoped to avoid strip mall patterns and discourage big box development. "We were wanting to encourage more of the entrepreneurial type of businesses."
_ LETITIA STEIN
Many of the three communities' concerns revolve around protecting the environment and its natural beauty. One area of particular concern: the Alafia River and its surrounding area.
The stacks of Tampa Electric Co.'s Big Bend Power Station can be seen from most parts of Apollo Beach and the belching stacks are often a complaint of residents.
The Riverview plan discourages tent sales, produce and fireworks stands at its busy intersections, like this one at U.S. 301 and Progress Boulevard.
Unfinished sidewalks and bike paths like Shell Point Road west of U.S. 41 are a concern. Ruskin hopes to one day be entirely navigable by foot or bike.
In Apollo Beach, there are many waterways and now the recently constructed Nature Park on the north end of the island.
Many residents preserve Ruskin's rich history and architecture. One landmark building is the A.P. Dickman House, 120 SW Dickman Drive.