1. Florida Politics

Project with Bass Pro Shops clears first hurdle

Published Feb. 13, 2013

TAMPA — Hillsborough County commissioners unanimously approved changes to a development plan Tuesday that would enable construction of a controversial Bass Pro Shops store and other retail businesses in Brandon.

The 7-0 vote clears the way for a Feb. 20 decision by commissioners on whether to grant $6.25 million in subsidies for the Estuary project in the form of payback to developers for road work in and near the complex.

The outcome of that Feb. 20 vote remains less certain. Small-business owners and community activists continue to urge the board to reject the request, saying it amounts to a tax giveaway for a big company that will create low-wage jobs and compete against existing stores.

"I still have not come to a complete conclusion," said Commissioner Mark Sharpe, one of the commissioners who remains on the fence after Tuesday's vote.

That vote essentially speeds up the timetable for the development group fronted by David Verardo to build on roughly 150 acres across Interstate 75 from the Westfield Brandon mall.

Previously, the development group could build 150,000 square feet of retail space — about the size of the proposed Bass Pro store — in the first phase. Now it would be able to build 350,000 square feet of retail, allowing it to bring in other stores, likely to feed off traffic to Bass Pro, more quickly.

In return, the development group would speed up plans to add a traffic signal and turn lanes at the entrance to the complex. Verardo's group also would extend Palm River Road through the property and ultimately must widen Falkenburg Road near the complex to handle traffic.

Bill Varian can be reached at or (813) 226-3387.