A proposed rezoning for a gas station and convenience store, off U.S. 41, north of Sunset Lane, drew both support and opposition during an Aug. 16 hearing.
“We’re planning a brand-new modern building, designed to fit within the character of the Lutz community design standards,” Cami Corbett, an attorney representing the applicant told Susan Finch, the hearing officer on the case.
The proposed development is “a next-generation” 7-Eleven that would be built “at the node that’s specifically designated for neighborhood commercial development within the Lutz Community Plan,” Corbett added.
Three experts spoke on behalf of the applicant.
One offered testimony regarding the steps that are taken to ensure the safety of the fuel tanks and the methods used to capture gasoline vapors.
Another testified that the project will not pose a threat to water quality of private wells in the area.
A third expert discussed traffic issues. He pointed to improvements that are planned at the intersection of Sunset Lane and U.S. 41. He also cited a department of transportation study that estimates that 78% of a convenience store/gas station’s traffic comes from motorists driving by.
Natalie Davis, of 17880 N. U.S. Highway 41, in Lutz, spoke forcefully in favor of the request.
“I grew up in a neighborhood right across from this project, on Sunset and 41. I now own a small business that’s located in Lutz, as well,” she said.
She offered several reasons for her support.
Lutz has typically wanted to slow down development, she said, but in the last 15 years, it has allowed “a Publix, a Dunkin’ Donuts, restaurants, McDonald’s, a self-storage unit, a Walgreens, a bank, professional office parks, and new neighborhoods.
“So, my question is, why not a gas station? And, why not this property?” she asked.
“There’s widespread development to the north of us, on Highway (State Road) 54, and there’s development creeping from the south. And, U.S. 41 is the six-lane highway that runs in between.
“So, to think you’re going to keep Lutz small — that train has left the station. We’re not talking about a small-town road. We’re talking about a six-lane highway. We’re not talking about a nature preserve. We’re talking about a six-lane highway.”
She also thinks Lutz needs more gas stations, plus she supports the property owner’s right to develop the property, she added.
Gus Weekley, who owns the property up for rezoning, along with his brother, said the family has deep roots in Lutz.
“It initially was owned by my grandmother. She bought it decades ago, when (U.S.) 41 was the only major road into Tampa and she sold fruit that was raised on the land, to those coming to the north,” he said.
He recalled spending many summer weekends during his youth, working in the groves.
“We have history of 80 years or so, in Lutz,” he said, noting that he thinks a gas station will be a good addition to the community.
“This is not a case of someone just coming in and saying, ‘Where’s the check? See you later.’’’ Weekley said.
But one area resident raised concerns about locating a commercial business using a septic tank so close to nearby residences that rely on well water.
Sam Calco, president of the Lutz Citizens Coalition, also objected to the request “based solely on the law, as established by the Lutz Comprehensive Plan.”
He contends the proposed rezoning violates that plan and should be denied.
Calco also contends that the request has failed to secure a commercial locational waiver, which he said is required.
“This project is not needed or wanted in Lutz at this time,” Calco said, vowing that he would not support the business.
“I know I will never buy a lottery ticket. Not one candy bar or Slurpee. Not one gallon of gas. Not one bag of ice — ever — at this business,” Calco said.
“I ask you, our citizens ask you, to simply follow the law,” he told the hearing officer.
Corbett said the rural planning policies prohibit public sewer. If it was allowed, however, the developer would be glad to connect.
“While we had some real passionate people here this evening, I don’t think any of them are experts in the field such as compatibility or transportation or environmental, and so you do have expert testimony in the record, in the form of staff reports from the planning commission, development services and all of our experts to support the application,” Corbett said.
Corbett also noted the application had received no objections from the reviewing agencies.
Finch has 15 days from the date of the hearing to issue her recommendation, which will go to the Hillsborough County Commission, which has final say on zoning and land use issues.
Published August 25, 2021