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More study for project at FishHawk

Developers pressed Hillsborough County commissioners on Tuesday to approve a 3,500-unit housing complex south of Brandon, an area known for congested traffic and crowded schools.

They came away empty, at least for now.

"I want to deny it outright," Commissioner Ronda Storms said at the end of a three-hour public hearing.

She did not get her way. Four other commissioners voted to send the proposal back to the zoning hearing master to reconsider the impact such dense development would have on roads and schools.

Commissioner Tom Scott warned a largely antidevelopment crowd, "You all are not going to get what you want with this remanding."

At least 30 residents showed up wearing red shirts - the color of stop signs, FishHawk resident Richard Brown said.

Brown said that his neighbors are not against development. "We just think you need information on how it will affect the infrastructure before you start building all of these houses."

Lake Hutto would would fill 1,127 acres with villas, duplexes and condominiums in three parcels in Lithia, north of FishHawk Boulevard and east of Boyette Road.

The developer, Pulte Homes, is seeking a rezoning from agricultural and residential uses to a planned development. The change would allow four units an acre on 710 acres.

If approved, the developer could build up to 4,508 units. Pulte Homes has plans for 3,560, plus 365,000 square feet of retail space, a 26-acre park, and 6 acres for an elementary and middle school.

Because of its size and potential impact, Lake Hutto has been reviewed by 15 government agencies. The state Department of Community Affairs lodged the most objections, citing concerns over traffic, the environment, water and wastewater, and public schools.

In each case, it said the county and developer failed to supply complete information. No development can cause a county or state road to drop in its level of service.

Pulte Homes and the county are promising to defray that impact with more than $64-million in road improvements, including widening a 5-mile stretch of FishHawk Boulevard.

The county's land-use hearing officer in January recommended against the project, saying that the developer had not provided enough data to offset concerns about school and road overcrowding.

The zoning hearing master board will convene April 4 to reconsider the application, focusing population density and traffic along Lithia-Pinecrest Road. The proposal returns to the County Commission on May 11.