Commissioner Higginbotham To Meet With Residents Over Bloomingdale Big Box Store

By Tamas Mondovics

After what he said took weeks of searching for a suitable venue, Hillsborough County Commissioner Al Higginbotham announced that he has secured a location to meet with residents over the proposed mixed use development on Bloomingdale Ave. near Lithia Pinecrest Rd., adjacent to the Bloomingdale Library.

The meeting, which county officials called a “listening session to give residents an opportunity to voice concerns” is now scheduled for Monday, June 10, from 6-8 p.m. at the Brandon Community Recreation Center, located at 502 E. Sadie St., in Brandon.

According to county spokesperson, Willie Puz, a brief presentation from the County Attorney’s office will be followed by an opportunity for residents to provide comment.

The Brandon Recreation Center can seat approximately 450 people.

Higginbotham, District 4, said that he wants to hear from residents regarding the proposed development on Bloomingdale Ave. near Lithia Pinecrest, a mixed-use development, which would include retail, apartments, and other businesses.

Speakers wanting to comment need to register and will have a specified time to speak – up to 3 minutes, depending on the number of speakers – to present their views on this proposed development, officials said.

“The underlying message is that residents want someone to listen,” Higginbotham said as he talked about the reason for setting up the meeting.

While no other commissioners are scheduled to attend the meeting, Higginbotham said that the Hillsborough County Land Use Attorney, Adam Gormly, along with some of the county’s staff to answer technical questions will also be present.

“Finding the right location was not easy at this time of the year to host a meeting, and it took a little longer to find a facility,” he said, but added that it is an official meeting which will allow residents to voice their concerns.

The Bloomingdale MUD ( Mixed Use Development) proposed by Redstone Properties Inc., involves plans for 158,800 sq. ft. big box store—most believe to be a Walmart —with 720 proposed parking spaces, five out-parcels as well as a residential complex sporting 261 apartments.

Since the news of the size of the development was published earlier this year, residents have urged county staff to meet with them and explain the project as well as to hear the community’s concerns over the project with no success.

A signed petition found on Facebook and change.org, to support the fight against the currently proposed project, has now passed the 1,000-signature mark with more signing up daily, including residents represented by the River Hills community HOA.

Bloomingdale area resident, Jereme Monette, emphasized that the issues are many, but a major concern is safety for both pedestrians—young and old—as well as motorists as area roads will be hit with the extra traffic.

Residents are also voicing their concern about a land use re-zoning change in 2011, from a traditional neighborhood to an MUD, of which they say the community was unaware, advertisements were vague, never mentioned the property in question and that the rezoning process was wrong.

But during a recent BOCC meeting County Attorney Chip Fletcher reportedly told commissioners there is no way they can reverse a 2003 rezoning, which allowed a big box retail store on the Bloomingdale parcel.

In its fight against the big-box development, CAN-DO (Coordinated Active Neighborhoods for Development Organization) residents contributed funds for legal representation and retained Tampa land-use lawyer Pamela Jo Hatley, who has earned her law degree and a certificate in environmental and land-use law at the University of Florida in 2003.

“We are asking Pamela Jo Hatley to help us find answers to questions that our commissioners are either unwilling or unable to provide,” Monette said. “The county commissioners may say there’s nothing they can do to stop this development, but we are committed to pursuing every option available to save our community.”

For more information, visit www.bloomingdalebigbox.com or plan to attend the meeting.