Residents Launch Effort To Advocate For Neighbors Of Giant Mixed-Use Development

By Tamas Mondovics

Bloomingdale and Valrico residents are building momentum in an effort to halt the approval of a proposed mixed-use development on Bloomingdale Ave. near Lithia Pinecrest, adjacent to the Bloomingdale Library. And, the next meeting about the project is now scheduled for next Tuesday, April 16, 2013.

The parcel involves plans for a 158,800 sq. ft. store with 720 proposed parking spaces, and a total 43.52 acres, which also includes five out-parcels aside from the main shopping center as well as a residential complex.

At recent local meetings, Bloomingdale area HOA groups, community advocates and area residents are meeting to discuss how to get the county’s attention and give attention to the residents living in the area.

“We don’t want this in our back yard,” said Fred Brown, a long-time resident of the Lithia Oaks community, which sits just north of the proposed site, adding that even if the project cannot be stopped, they would at least like to be heard and express their concerns.

Brown voiced his concerns during a recent meeting held in connection with the issue at the Bloomingdale Library, which included concerns caused by the project such as increased traffic problems, decrease of home values, impact on small businesses, pollution, as well as destruction of surrounding wetlands, just to name a few.

He said he understands that the county is working with the developer, Redstone Properties Inc., which states on it’s corporate website that it represents Wal-mart and Lowe’s and are collecting their data and site review before construction can move forward.

“The problem is that nobody cares to hear what the residents who live here have to say about any of this,” Brown said. “They never said the building was a Wal-mart store, but they don’t say it’s not either. They only said that based on the size of the box store and other information, we the residents can pretty much figure it out.

Brown added that upon inquiring about the development, he was told that the county is not required to hold public meetings on previously rezoned property.

“What is sad is that was it not for an article in the Osprey Observer, who knows when we would have found out about the project,” he said. Considering the project’s size and the impact that it would mean for the community, the county should freely speak to us and work on our behalf.”

Community advocate, George Niemann, could not agree more as he emphasized the need to be open with the community especially on a project of such magnitude.

“Residents don’t like surprises,” Niemann said, adding that he personally tried to get information from several members of the county staff.

“Within the borders of an established community, county representatives should be the first to ask if the project is appropriate, does it serve the needs of the existing community the best that it can, is it the right thing to do, is there a need, and most importantly, will it help or improve the quality of life,” he said. “Who better to answer these questions than the residents and not the developer?”

Niemann mentioned that, so far, Hillsborough County staff said no to hosting a public meeting as they are not required to by law.

“That’s not going to stop us from hosting our own meetings and inviting the county to attend,” he said.

As the project moves forward, questions about the soundness of the Bloomingdale development only grows in the minds of many residents, who hope to be heard by their local government representatives.

“We want the county to work with us and to be much more pro-active,” Brown said, adding, “Give us a chance to have some input into what is going on, or going to happen in our own neighborhood. Information we—at least for now—only get from our local newspapers.”

Residents may view the approved proposed site plan and Access Analysis submitted by the developer, at ftp://ftp.hillsboroughcounty.org/web/download/.