Residents of the Meadowbrook Estates and Sierra Pines subdivision, in Lutz, are banding together to fight a proposed commercial rezoning at the entrance of their communities.
Kiddie Campus University Inc., is seeking to change residential zoning to general commercial on a 1.67-acre site, on the southwest corner of State Road 54 and Meadowbrook Drive.
Area residents who oppose the change were represented by Todd Pressman, a private consultant, during a March 4 meeting of the Pasco County Planning Commission.
Pressman cited a report by a private planner, commissioned to review the request. The planner raised issues with the compatibility of a commercial use — in an area characterized by residential development.
“A request came through for this property for a day care and preschool in January ’11. That was denied 7-0, by this board. The same request came through one year later, for preschool, and that was denied,” Pressman said.
“This request would allow a gas station operating on this property. That would be nothing less than devastating for this community,” said Pressman, who presented petitions signed by 140 people against the request.
Residents from Meadowbrook Estates and Sierra Pines voiced objections, too.
They said a driveway from the proposed commercial site would have access onto Meadowbrook Drive — a street they claim is too narrow to handle the traffic a commercial project would generate.
One opponent also raised concerns about the potential long-term environmental damage — from droplets of gasoline that seep into the ground — if a gas station is allowed to locate at the site.
The communities rely on private wells for drinking water.
Other residents pointed out the problem of delivery trucks having a hard time getting out of the neighborhood, if they make a wrong turn, because the streets are so narrow.
Despite those objections, county planners have recommended approval of both a land use change and a rezoning. Both changes are needed to clear the way for a commercial use.
If the land use change is approved, the applicant will have to meet buffering requirements that exceed those normally required by the land use code, county planners said.
Barbara Wilhite, an attorney representing the applicant, noted that the site is at a signalized intersection, on a six-lane arterial highway, three-quarters miles east of the Suncoast Parkway.
“I think the neighbors are clear that they will object to any use other than residential,” Wilhite said, but given the site’s location at the intersection, on a six-lane arterial highway, she added, “this is absolutely not the place for a residential use.”
Wilhite also noted that the county board has adopted a comprehensive plan that specifically directs where it wants commercial land uses.
“This application strictly complies with that direction,” Wilhite said.
Charles Grey, planning commission chairman, said “I try to always put myself in the position of both property owners. The residents and the person who wants to develop the property. It’s always a balance of property rights.”
“I’m a strong proponent of property rights.
“I do think we need to provide some type of protection for the residents who live in that area. They are very, very close to this property.
“I certainly wouldn’t want people walking back and forth, from a 7-Eleven, for example, to my home, walk across my property. I know how that gets. I deal with that all of the time,” Grey said.
Planning commissioner Peter Hanzel said he would prefer to see a less intense commercial use.
“When you go to a C2 (general commercial), you open a large variety of facilities that can go there. Perhaps that’s what the residents are concerned about, going to a C2. Is there a possibility that it could go to a C1,” he said, which would limit the potential list of uses.
Wilhite responded: “My answer to that is that they opposed the day care. They clearly said today that they want it to remain a residential use. This is not a place to underutilize property.”
Planning commission Chris Poole asked about what type of use was planned.
Wilhite said a gas station is one of the permitted uses in the requested zoning district.
Grey wanted to know if the planning commission could see the buffering plan before voting on the request.
Brad Tippin, the county’s development review manager, said buffering is typically determined during the site plan review process — after the use of the site is known and the orientation of the building, parking lot and other elements are known.
In this case, because of the land use requirement, a greater degree of buffering would be required, Tippin said.
But, Grey said he would like to see the actual plans.
Tippin said creating the buffering plan before sufficient details are known could result in a less-effective plan.
Poole suggested voting on the land use plan, but delaying the zoning request until more details are available on the buffering.
Wilhite said she would be happy to work with the county on a buffering plan, and could include language that would provide flexibility to adjust the plan, if necessary.
A board majority voted to recommend approval of the land use change. The board continued the rezoning request until April 1.
Published March 17, 2021