Citizens Express Concerns At Lithia Pinecrest Public Hearing

Citizens Express Concerns At Lithia Pinecrest Public Hearing
By Michelle Caceres
The standing-room only crowd at Bell Shoals Baptist Church would have been enough to make any preacher proud.The multitidue, however, wasn’t there to worship but to learn more and express their opinions about the proposed widening and improvements to Lithia-Pinecrest Rd. Fancy full-color maps, strewn throughout the room, illustrated the probable changes to the 10.95-mile stretch of roadway from S.R. 60 to C.R. 39.The $156.77 million proposed project will widen Lithia-Pinecrest Rd. to a four-lane divided roadway from Lumsden Rd. to FishHawk Trails Dr. (designated as Segments B & C) and maintain the existing two-lane roadway from S.R. 60 to Lumsden Rd. (Segment A) and from FishHawk Trails Dr. to C.R. 39 (Segment D).Project manager Steve Gordillo with HDR Consulting Team says public input on this project has been staggering.“We have tried to be very sensitive to the needs of the community,” says Gordillo, who notes the plans have changed considerably since they were first unveiled more than three years ago.Those changes may not be good enough. Just ask the owners of the estimated 21 businesses and 14 residencies expected to be “relocated” to complete the project.Long-time resident Wayne Walker, who owns property that abuts Lithia-Pinecrest, is disappointed he couldn’t get an exact answer about how much of his land will be seized by eminent domain, the right of the government to take possession of a citizen’s private property with due monetary compensation but without the owner’s consent. Walker, who will be offering the property for sale next month, says he wants the information to disclose to potential buyers.“I guess I’m just going to have to sit back and wait for answers,” he says.More than 69 acres are expected to be acquired in all.Lithia-resident Pam Clouston says she has been following this proposal since the beginning, when it was originally propsed that the entire road be widened to six-lanes. “We’re pleased with the changes that have been made but we still feel sorry for residents living on Lithia-Pinecrest,” says Clouston.She envisions, sadly, a road with more commercial development and less residential.Even though final project approval is expected later this year, don’t expect to hear the sound of bulldozers any time soon. The county needs to overcome one major stumbling block: funding. Except for a small portion of street between Bloomingdale and Adelaide Ave., which is being paid for by Newland Communities as part of the Lake Hutto deal, there is no money to begin construction.Hillsborough County manager Thomas Fass says that in addition to possible federal funding that may become available, County Commissioners are considering putting a one-cent sales tax on the November 2010 ballot, 25% of which would be set aside for roadway improvements. That equates to approximately $44 million per year, not even close to the forecasted project budget.So with funding this massive project a concern, drivers will just have to expect slow-moving traffic, congested intersections and dangerous turns on Lithia Pinecrest for the forseeable future.For more information about the study and recommended roadway improvements visit www.LPCSTUDY.com.