Although they couldn’t actually be in the Pasco County Commission’s chambers — due to COVID-19 protocols — opponents to a proposed gas station near the Sierra Pines and Meadowbrook Estates neighborhood in Lutz erupted in shouts of jubilation when the request was denied.
The residents were so happy, their reaction could be heard in the board’s chamber — via a televised board hearing — even though the crowd was in an outer room.
Currently, the land is designated for residential use; the new designation would have allowed a litany of commercial uses.
Commissioner Kathryn Starkey and Jack Mariano supported the proposed change; Commission Chairman Ron Oakley, and members Mike Moore and Christina Fitzpatrick rejected it.
The land is owned by Kiddie Campus University Inc., under contract to sell it to a gas station and convenience store developer. Attorney Barbara Wilhite represented the applicant.
Residents of Sierra Pines and Meadowbrook Estates were persistent in their opposition.
They were represented by Todd Pressman, an independent planning consultant and attorney Luke Lirot. Their presentation included an analysis of the request by Patricia Ortiz, a professional planner.
Neighbor after neighbor also weighed in, raising issues, including the potential environmental hazards that the gas station could pose to residents who rely on private wells for their drinking water, for bathing and for irrigation.
They also contended that the neighborhood’s narrow road is not conducive to big trucks pulling and out.
Perhaps their biggest objection was having a gas station so close to existing residences.
They cited concerns about the 24/7 nature of a convenience store. They showed a simulated photo of signage used by a convenience store, super-imposed on the edge of the existing neighborhood.
They expressed concerns about the big trucks that service the convenience store making turns into or out of their neighborhood — noting the narrow two-lane road can’t support that kind of traffic.
While one of the lots fronts State Road 54, the other lot is directly adjacent to one residential lot and across the street from another one.
The request had received recommendations for approval from the county’s staff, as well as the Pasco County Planning Commission.
Wilhite told commissioners that the site is not appropriate for residential development and that it meets the criteria in the county’s comprehensive plan for a commercial designation.
Both Wilhite and planners said the proposed designation also would require sensitive site design and buffering requirements.
Starkey said the site is more appropriate for commercial use, than for residential.
She made a motion to “let it (land-use designation) become commercial, and let the zoning of this determine the use.”
She called for approving the staff’s recommendation, which was seconded by Mariano.
“Let all of these issues be hashed out in the zoning,” Starkey said.
Moore, however, said he couldn’t support having a gas station so close to neighboring residential development.
Starkey’s motion failed, with two in favor and three opposed.
The board’s April 20 vote came after a previous hearing that had been continued, with commissioners directing representatives from both sides to meet and see if they could come up with a compromise.
Neighbors said they are not opposed to a less-intense use, such as a professional office, but that option was never proposed.
This wasn’t the first time that Kiddie Campus Inc., sought permission to use the property for a different use.
Kiddie Campus’ two previous efforts to gain a special exception to allow a day care at the site also were denied.
Published April 28, 2021