A request that initially had received a recommendation for approval by county planners drew considerable controversy at a public hearing and has been continued until Dec. 7.
Neighbors raised objections to a proposed rezoning that would convert a property currently zoned for neighborhood commercial and residential uses to a general commercial site, which allows a more expansive list of potential commercial uses.
Testimony during the Pasco County Commission’s Nov. 2 public hearing on the request also prompted a county code compliance officer to order an investigation to determine whether code violations have occurred on the property.
The request was filed in the name of Dawood Hany and Neamataud Nermeen. It involves about 0.86 acres at the southeast corner of State Road 54 and Shaw Drive, in Zephyrhills.
The item had been part of the planning board’s consent agenda — meaning it was not considered to be controversial and would have been approved, along with other requests in a single vote, without public testimony.
But as soon as planners became aware there was opposition, the item was pulled from the consent agenda.
The opponents made it clear that they don’t want the applicants to receive permission to move forward with their plans for a 5,000-square-foot maintenance shop for auto repairs.
Jimmy Nelson, who owns the property immediately behind the proposed rezoning, told the planning board: “I think most of the residents who are here do object to them changing this into a commercial district.
“There’s more cars and concrete. The roads are not done. My road floods already as it is when it rains. My yard gets so flooded, it’s unreal. This is something that me and my wife don’t want.”
His wife, Christina, then proceeded to give the planning board an earful about activities that she said already have occurred on the site.
A home on the site already has been demolished and trees were cut down.
She reported the tree removal, and the property owner was fined, she said.
“There’s two homes over here. I’m guessing that’s what he wants to demolish and use it as a mechanic shop,” she said.
Towing activities have occurred there, too, she said.
“We all work. We’re all blue-collar workers, and there’s children.
“I’m opposed to it. This is not OK. We were a nice quiet neighborhood,” she said.
Her husband showed the planning board a photo on his phone that appears to be a building under construction on the site.
Addressing negative impacts
Neighbors claimed that the applicant’s site has been used for car storage and also for a towing business, which are not allowed under current zoning.
Planning board member Jon Moody asked: “Is there a towing business on the property?”
County planner Liam Devine responded: “No, there isn’t.”
Christina responded: “Yes, there is.”
Devine added: “It looks like there are cars there being stored, when I did a drive-by survey of the property. But I didn’t see towing.”
Moody added: “Is his storage operation in compliance?”
Devine responded: “That would not be.”
Richard Kujawa, who lives on Shaw Drive, told the planning board: “He has been using the property for AAA services, though he says he hasn’t. The gates are still open. He’s got the trucks in there.
“There’s been significant damage done to the road, from him coming in and out,” he said.
Another opponent, who has property on Huron Street, told the planning board: “When I bought the property, there were two houses on the lower end of his property. And then he fenced it in, took the houses down, so that made it all commercial. Took down all of the trees.
“He doesn’t pay attention to the rules.
“It says no trucks on either street, he takes down the signs.
“He’ll do what he wants. We’re just bringing it to your attention,” the Huron Street property owner said.
David Goldstein, chief assistant county attorney, asked the neighbors if the applicant agreed to put up a fence on the south side of the property and prohibit access onto Waverly, if that would address their concerns.
Planning board members discussed a number of ways to address potential impacts — by using deed restrictions or requiring the applicant to bring the final site plan back for the board’s review.
Christina said she would still object because of the noise that would be caused by an auto mechanics shop.
Planning Commission Chairman Grey told his colleagues: “I’d be very reluctant to approve this under the circumstances that have been presented here, mainly because this particular applicant evidently has done a lot of things under the radar. I don’t want the residents to have to come back here every time there’s a violation and report it and then to wait for somebody to deal with it. You know, we don’t need those kinds of activities.
“It’s a matter of trust,” Grey said.
Attorney Shelly Johnson, representing the applicant, suggested delaying the issue until Dec. 7.
She said she wasn’t aware of any issues raised by the neighbors before she came to the meeting. The delay would allow time to meet with neighbors and her client, she said.
“We’re a little flat-footed on it right now,” she said.
The planning board granted her request for continuance, which also will provide time for them to get a report from the county’s code compliance office, regarding the alleged code violations.
Published November 22, 2023