Residents Seek Answers Over Proposed Gibsonton YMCA

Hillsborough County Acquisition Manager Kurt G. Gremley, left and Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA President and CEO Tom Looby, talk about the proposed location of the Riverview YMCA. The new facility is hoped to be built on county owned land adjacent to the Vance Vogel Sports Complex, in Riverview.

Two months ago, Hillsborough County officials joined by representatives of Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA, hosted a public meeting in connection with the proposal to build a YMCA adjacent to the Vance Vogel Sports Complex, off Bullfrog Creek Rd., just north of Big Bend Rd. in Gibsonton.

In reply and, concerned about the impact that the new Y would have on the local business community, as well as to inform what action can be taken to voice their concerns to the county commissioners, area residents, local business owners and managers also gathered to hold their own meeting led by Apollo’s Bistro owner Logan Sultenfuss.

“My objective is to make certain that the county performs a fair assessment on the true needs of the community and not simply continue with a “Good Faith” assessment provided by the YMCA,” Sultenfuss said.

Among the dozens of questions and concerns raised over the Y project, attendees were specifically seeking answers to the new YMCA’s impact on the existing businesses and future businesses that offer similar services, the designation county land to a tax exempt business, the timing of the project development verses public notification as well as the county’s decision to grant tax dollars and county property to a private entity.

“A private research conducted by local business owners has shown that the county has not followed their own procedures that were put in place following the ‘Regent debacle’ intended to prevent abuse of public  resources by private entities,” Sultenfuss said. “It is also believed that the community was not given sufficient time to respond to the Board of County Commissioners following the Public Awareness Meeting held in January of this year.”

Joined by dozens of local businesses and to address the issue, Sultenfuss emphasized that a request to the County Commission board now includes the reopening the February  Agenda Item A-45 for reconsideration.

Also requested is the schedule of another public hearing detailing the county’s due diligence as to why a 33,000-sq.-ft. facility with additional aquatic center and outdoor amenities at its proposed location is currently needed and how the new facility might replace the services previously offered by county parks.

Besides the county’s support of the Y, Sultenfuss raised concern about the Y’s claim that there is an overwhelming demand from the community, pointing to the more than 40 privately owned businesses within a five-mile radius of the proposed location that offer similar services to the proposed YMCA.

During the January public meeting, Tampa metropolitan YMCA CEO Tom Looby referred to a study that surveyed approximately 700 residents within the Riverview, Apollo Beach and Gibsonton area, which he said revealed an overwhelming desire for a new facility to be built.

“The study was all positive and showed that the need for a new YMCA is significant,” Looby said.

In reply, Sultenfuss said that the 2010 survey showing overwhelming demand is arguably out of date and that residents surveyed may not have been aware of the involvement of their tax dollars. “Many private businesses have opened or expanded since 2010,” he said, adding that U.S. Hwy. 301 has been widened to four lanes.

Feeling the legitimacy of his business community’s concerns in connection with the topic, Sultenfuss promised to host more meetings inviting all back to the table including County officials as well as Y representatives before this matter comes to rest.

For more information, residents can contact Sultenfuss at Apollo’s Bistro, located at 6520 Richies Way by phone at 641-2685, or visit www.hillsboroughcounty.org