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Hillsborough residents sue to block Taylor Morrison development in Keystone

The dispute is over the number of homes to be built in an area with rural safeguards.
Heavy construction equipment sits off Patterson Road in Keystone after Hillsborough County issued a stop-work order for site development at a planned 194-home project from Taylor Morrison. The county later issued a development order on May 5, and 20 Keystone residents are now suing to stop the development.
Heavy construction equipment sits off Patterson Road in Keystone after Hillsborough County issued a stop-work order for site development at a planned 194-home project from Taylor Morrison. The county later issued a development order on May 5, and 20 Keystone residents are now suing to stop the development. [ CT BOWEN | CT BOWEN ]
Published Jun. 8|Updated Jun. 8

Twenty Keystone residents are suing Hillsborough County to stop a national home builder from adding 194 homes to their rural community.

The lawsuit, filed Monday in Hillsborough Circuit Court, seeks to void the May 5 county-issued development order allowing Taylor Morrison to develop 200 acres between Patterson and McGlamery roads in the Keystone area of northwest Hillsborough.

The development order violates the rural protections contained in the county-adopted overlay district and community plan for Keystone and Odessa, the lawsuit alleges. The community plan limits new residential development to one home per 5 acres and requires septic service and well water to discourage sprawl.

The Taylor Morrison project calls for nearly one home per gross acre, but 124 of the lots will be on a minimum of 10,000 square feet, or a quarter-acre, the lawsuit states. The company plans to serve the neighborhood by extending county water and sewer service beyond Hillsborough’s urban service boundary.

The county approved zoning the land for one home per acre in 1991, a decade before the community plan’s rural protections went into effect. Residents have said they were told the property’s proposed housing density was permissible because it was approved before the community plan’s development standards.

The lawsuit, however, alleges that “grandfather” status never came.

“Hillsborough County has an adopted procedure for owners/developers who believe they should be ‘grandfathered’ or vested from the plan requirements. Neither the previous owner or the current owner/developer has ever applied for such vesting,” the plaintiff’s attorney, Jimmy D. Crawford of Clermont, wrote in an email. “So in our opinion, it is not only is a terrible planning decision, it is an unlawful one as well.”

Jeannie Holton Carufel stands on her two-acre property off McGlamery Road in Keystone in Hillsborough County. She is one of the 20 plaintiffs who have filed suit againt the count seeking to block Taylor Morrison from turning vacant land into a 194-home development.
Jeannie Holton Carufel stands on her two-acre property off McGlamery Road in Keystone in Hillsborough County. She is one of the 20 plaintiffs who have filed suit againt the count seeking to block Taylor Morrison from turning vacant land into a 194-home development. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]

Residents will be affected adversely by “increased traffic, noise, health and safety issues, diminished property values, light pollution, and loss of peaceful and quiet enjoyment of rural residential property,” the lawsuit states.

The plaintiffs include Steven and Melissa Nordbeck, who blew the whistle on Taylor Morrison clearing trees from the land without county permission, and Jeanne Holton Carufel, who lives less than a mile from the site and called the development “heartbreaking” in a March interview with the Tampa Bay Times.

Related: In rural Hillsborough, a development fight shrouded in history

“The people that bought out there relied on the county’s promise that the area will stay rural, and their way of life and property values deserve protection,” Crawford said.

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Taylor Morrison, which purchased the property in December for $11.75 million, is not named as a defendant. It has said it was following the 1991 zoning.

“We believe there is some confusion regarding zoning for this property which falls outside of the 2001 overlay zone. The community plans are in full accordance with zoning and it is being built based on the zoning that applies specifically to this site location,” the company said in a May 5 statement.

The Hillsborough County Attorney’s Office and the county’s Development Services Department — which authorized the development order — declined comment.

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