The Hillsborough County Commission has approved a rezoning request to allow a 7-Eleven at 18601 N. U.S. 41, which is north of the intersection of U.S. 41 and Sunset Lane, in Lutz.
The request came despite opposition from a nearby resident, from representatives of the Lutz Civic Association, the Lutz Citizens Coalition and from a professional planner representing opponents.
The application found support, however, from planners with the county and with the Hillsborough County City-County Planning Commission, as well as a recommendation for approval from Land Use Hearing Officer Susan Finch.
The county board voted 7-0 to approve the request at its July 26 meeting.
Previously, the board had remanded the application for further review.
The request the board sent back included a proposed car wash as part of the application.
That caused some commissioners to question whether a septic system would be capable of handling the discharge from the car wash.
They said they were concerned because of the area’s lakes, private wells and wetlands.
They asked staff to have the county’s Department of Environmental Protection take a closer look at that issue.
In supporting the remand, Commissioner Mariella Smith said the hearing can explore other issues, too.
“I would not have it limited,” she said, noting that citizens are free to discuss other topics, such as light pollution and compatibility.
In response to concerns, the applicant, RKM, dropped the car wash request.
It also agreed to restrictions on exterior lighting that exceed the county’s code, Cami Corbett, attorney for RKM said.
During the county board’s July 26 hearing, opponents reiterated many of the concerns they raised during previous public hearings.
They challenged the project’s compatibility, cited potential for negative impacts on the areas wetlands and expressed concerns about the potential loss of habitat for wildlife.
Susan Guess raised concerns about a loss of refuge for the area’s animals and birds.
She also asked the board to consider the impact on an existing gas station in the area.
“Blessings (the gas station) has been in our neighborhood for almost 30 years,” Guess said. “They provide a good service to our community. They care about our community. This prospective 7-Eleven store will definitely put them out of business,” she said.
She asked the board to reject the rezoning request.
Daryl Max Forgey, a planning consultant representing the opponents, said the request is not consistent with the county’s comprehensive plan.
Sam Calco, of the Lutz Citizens Coalition, said the meeting should be continued because there was no signage on the property announcing the meeting. Signs had been posted for previous hearings, he said.
Jay Muffly, of the Lutz Civic Association, began to address his concerns about impacts from potential runoff from the new convenience store — but his remarks were cut short because the 10-minute for opposition testimony ran out.
Muffly asked why there was a 10-minute limit, instead of 15 minutes.
He was informed that’s the limit set by county code.
Corbett told county board members that the proposed gas station is a modern building, designed specifically to fit within the character of Lutz.
The request complies with both the Lutz Community Plan and the county’s comprehensive plan, she said.
She also noted it is within the node that’s specifically designated for neighborhood commercial development within the Lutz Community Plan.
The wetlands on the site turned out to be larger than initially believed, so her client purchased additional land to ensure there are no negative impacts, Corbett said.
She presented two experts to address issues raised regarding potential environmental impacts.
Corbett also disputed Calco’s claim regarding insufficient public notice and the opponents’ planning consultant’s contention that the request is contrary to the county’s comprehensive plan.
The county board approved the request without comment, except for some observations by Board Chairwoman Kim Overman.
Overman noted: “This is sort of in-between two urban areas,” with the city of Tampa to the south and more developed areas leading to Pasco County, to the north.
“This is U.S. 41. This is a U.S. highway that runs through the middle of this area where commercial development has been encouraged as part of the commercial plan,” she said.
Published August 03, 2022