DADE CITY — For months Land O’ Lakes residents have been collecting petitions, posting signs and organizing neighbors to oppose a KB Homes proposal to build 109 houses on a 46-acre parcel on Hale Road.
On Tuesday, they packed the County Commission chambers sporting bright green “Hale No” shirts and, after several hours of testimony, were rewarded with a unanimous vote for denial of the project.
The development would have straddled both the north and south side of Hale, just west of the Collier Parkway. The opposition included the expected mix of residents who didn’t want to see more rooftops in an area that had been rural just a decade or two ago, those who were concerned about more crowding in nearby schools and those who had deep concerns about the capacity of Hale Road, which has no sidewalks and growing traffic issues.
The developer’s representatives talked about the low density of the single family homes on the site and their willingness to make changes in the access to the property.
There were unique issues too, including the concerns raised by the owners of the Rosebud Continuum Sustainability Education Center situated on the other side of Placie Lake from the proposed development. Support for that facility and the sustainable development concepts its teaches prompted dozens of letters and comments from students at nearby Land O’ Lakes High School in opposition.
Maryann Bishop, owner of the 19-acre Rosebud property, hired an attorney and a traffic consultant and offered to buy the portion of the property on the other side of the lake. She told commissioners that the plan threatens her right to agriculture uses and worries about subdivision residents complaining about her bee colonies, smelly livestock and noisy goats, land uses she said she has a right to continue.
“The bottom line is listen to your planning commission,” she said. The planning commission recommended denial based on a 13-point list of land development issues including questions about the safety of more traffic on Hale Road.
But even changes proposed by KB Homes since that planning commission meeting, including making the primary access point on Collier Parkway rather than Hale, sidewalk construction and adding right and left turn lanes at the entrances wasn’t enough to calm neighbors.
Much of the two hours of public comment focused on the condition of the road, regular accidents there, the fact that bikes and pedestrians, including children waiting for the bus or walking to school, have to travel in the road. Others described how they did research to pick a rural area before buying land there hoping for peace and quiet and now face more traffic and congestion.
Resident Emory Bragg said the project would “be the demise of the small-town neighborhood” and that placing a subdivision of homes crowded onto 40 and 50 foot lots “will destroy the ambiance we have moved here for.”
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Others spoke about the cumulative effect of all the new projects in the area and the drainage issues likely to come. Commissioners had the same issues, with Commissioner Jack Mariano voicing concern about the traffic on narrow Hale Road and the small lot sizes.
Commissioner Christina Fitzpatrick was also concerned about roads and other infrastructure keeping up with development. “It’s important that developers and communities can work together,” she said.
A video of children walking along the edge of the street convinced commission chairperson Kathryn Starkey to vote no. When she called for the vote on a motion to deny the project, it was unanimous and the room erupted in cheers from the neighbors.
After the vote, Bishop issued a statement saying, “This is a huge win and more than anything a relief that the character of our neighborhood, our safety, and community are protected, at least for now. We want smart development that fits in the area and this wasn’t it.”