By B.C. Manion
The debate about the potential location of a charter school in Lutz has spawned the creation of the Lutz Citizens Coalition.
The group aims “to keep the true ‘stakeholders’ of our community, our Lutz residents, informed, involved and engaged by keeping them abreast of newly proposed projects, as well as the ever changing status of ongoing projects,” the coalition’s website states.
The group also seeks to provide a platform where residents can have a voice on issues affecting them, the website adds.
While fully engaged in a battle to prevent Gates School from being built near the intersection of US 41 and Sunset Lane, the Lutz Citizens Coalition is far more than a single issue group, said its founder and president Mike White.
The coalition aims to be a “forum to do good things for Lutz,” said Sam Calco, the coalition’s vice president. “It’s very important to stay informed and involved.”
White added, “Everyone understands there has to be some growth.” The coalition’s goal is to prevent “inappropriate growth.”
The group has never been against the creation of Gates School, for instance, but opponents object to its proposed location because of the negative impacts they believe it will create, such as increased traffic, noise, litter, potential for flooding and environmental damage.
In addition to staying abreast of issues that can affect the community, the coalition is raising money for legal challenges and plans to be politically active, White said.
Calco said the coalition is important because people are so busy with work and their families that they don’t have time to pay attention to issues that can affect the quality of their daily life.
For instance, the Hillsborough Commission will soon be considering proposed recommendations by the county’s Economic Prosperity Stakeholder Committee that White believes could undermine the unique character of communities.
That committee, created at the suggestion of Hillsborough Commissioner Sandra Murman, was assembled to find ways to foster economic growth in the county.
The committee has recommended numerous changes that would streamline county reviews and regulations.
However, White contends that the changes the committee is recommending could make community plans, such as the one for Lutz, meaningless.
“The whole process was hijacked,” White said. “If you’re able to strike these down (community plans), we might as well be in Brandon,” White said.
Murman said there’s no intention by the committee “to gut or undermine any of the work” done by citizens to create community plans, adding that, “Community plans are here to stay.”
At the same time, the county must encourage economic development to generate more jobs, Murman said.
The committee will present its recommendations to the county commission at 1:30 p.m. Dec. 13 in the board chambers in County Center, 601 E. Kennedy Blvd. in Tampa.
For more information about the Lutz Citizens Coalition, visit www.lutzflorida.org.
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