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Car dealership will harm historic Brandon homestead, preservationists say

The Moseley family home and property remain largely unchanged since they moved there in the 1880s.
 
The Moseley's family homestead in 2020. The home and property have remained largely unchanged since the 1880s.
The Moseley's family homestead in 2020. The home and property have remained largely unchanged since the 1880s. [ Times (2020) ]
Published Jan. 16|Updated Jan. 16

BRANDON — Historians refer to the Moseley homestead as land that time forgot.

The home remains largely unchanged since it was built in the 1880s, as has its 15 acres of property teeming with trees and wildlife, located down a dirt driveway between Haverty’s Furniture Store and Portillo’s Hot Dogs on busy Brandon Boulevard.

The Timberly Trust nonprofit charged with preserving the land says a Brandon Mitsubishi dealership planned for the neighboring lot will bring noise and pollution that will hinder their mission.

Hillsborough County approved the development in November. But the trust is prepared to take legal action if that decision is not revisited.

The trust’s notice of appeal sent to Adam Gormly, director of the county’s Development Services Department, asks that no permits are issued until the matter is resolved.

A covered back porch at the Moseley family's homestead in 2020. The house was built in 1886.
A covered back porch at the Moseley family's homestead in 2020. The house was built in 1886. [ Times (2020) ]

The history

The Moseley property was initially home to a Methodist church housed inside a log cabin. The land sits along a body of water named Ten Mile Lake because that was its distance from Tampa’s Fort Brooke military base.

The Moseleys moved to the property from Illinois in 1882, a year before Fort Brooke was decommissioned.

A fire destroyed the cabin in 1885. A year later, the Moseleys built their house, which is two log cabins connected by a long covered porch.

Patriarch Charles Scott Moseley was a wealthy watch manufacturer. Matriarch Julia Daniels Moseley was a writer and artist. She harvested palmetto leaf fiber used to make sheets that she colored green, yellow and black and pulled tight against the house walls for decorations. Those remain inside the home.

Their sons were an artist employed by the Works Progress Administration and an engineer at a cigar box factory.

Granddaughter Julia Winifred Moseley was also raised on the homestead, where she taught piano lessons as an adult. In later years, she worked to preserve the family property. To continue her mission, before she died in 2020, the granddaughter formed the Timberly Trust, which is named for the trees that populate the land.

The front road entrance to the Moseley family homestead is canopied with oak trees.
The front road entrance to the Moseley family homestead is canopied with oak trees. [ Times (2020) ]

The development

Because the Moseley homestead is a listed on the National Register of Historic Places it was up to the Hillsborough County Historic Resources Review Board to approve the auto dealership development.

The appeal cites “adverse effects” that the trust alleges the dealership will have on the Moseley homestead, such as stormwater runoff, site drainage, and traffic and lighting impacting the property’s habitat and wildlife. The review board heard the pollution argument during a public hearing.

They approved of the development because that land previously had another car dealership that did not harm the homestead. Jim Burt, a developer who in recent years prepared the property for commercial sale, said the other dealership was there from about 1970 to 2015.

Burt said he oversaw an upgrade to the land’s stormwater system since then. “It would take a storm of biblical proportions for any water to find its way onto the Moseley property.”

Trust chairperson Mark Proctor said the previous dealership was configured differently. The land directly abutting the homestead was used to store cars, while the Mitsubishi dealership would place a road there. Besides regular customer traffic, there will be tractor trailers using it to deliver cars, Proctor said. “It’s a different intensity.”

The goal is for the homestead to one day become a place for visitors to experience old Florida.

The noise and exhaust pollution from the road will take away from that, Proctor said. “There would also be an impact on the existing vegetation. It’s also a wildlife preserve. We’ve got coyotes there, and raccoons and possums. It’s 15 acres of undisturbed property.”

An architectural rendering of an approved Brandon Mitsubishi dealership to be built next to the historic Moseley homestead that dates to the 1880s. The homestead is the tree-filled area to the left. The dealership is the structure highlighted in yellow. Preservationists say the road to be built between the homestead and dealership will negatively impact the historic property.
An architectural rendering of an approved Brandon Mitsubishi dealership to be built next to the historic Moseley homestead that dates to the 1880s. The homestead is the tree-filled area to the left. The dealership is the structure highlighted in yellow. Preservationists say the road to be built between the homestead and dealership will negatively impact the historic property. [ Courtesy of Hillsborough County ]

The appeal

The trust might have sent a petition, but “there is no process to appeal the decision,” Gormly said in an email.

The trust counters that the hearing did not follow proper due process. In their appeal, the trust points out that county code says that the seven-person review board with two alternates must include a licensed architect, architectural historian, historian, anthropologist or archaeologist, and either a licensed planner, landscape architect, real estate developer or broker.

The current review board has just four members, none of whom is a historian, anthropologist or archaeologist, the appeal says, so the decision should be nullified, and a second hearing held.

Not true, Gormly said. Code “provides that four members … constitute a quorum, which is the number of members present when the Mitsubishi Auto Dealership project was considered … The five vacant … positions have been advertised multiple times however we have not received applications for appointment.”

Trust attorney John Dingfelder said, “If the county doesn’t respond the way we’re hoping they do and remand us back to that board or take it up to a hearing officer … we might have to go into Circuit Court with it.”

He is also hoping the dealership will compromise by building a 10-foot wall to serve as a sound, light and pollution barrier on the shared border.

That won’t be happening.

“There is currently a dilapidated fence out there,” Burt said. “The car dealer has agreed to erect a new and nicer fence. Other than that, their intention is to comply with all other ordinances.”