By Tamas Mondovics
Bloomingdale area residents have once again pulled their resources together and took to the streets in demonstration of their resolve, opposing the planned “big box” development and apartment complex on E. Bloomingdale Ave. in Valrico.
As they have done once before, dozens of residents were armed with signs and placards, many of which simply read “No Big Box,” to ensure their message remains clear and is no different from the first rally against the project held in May.
Reaching their financial goal, and represented by their attorney Pamela Jo Hatley, residents have also officially filed a lawsuit against Hillsborough County and developer Red Cast Bloomingdale LLC.
“We wanted to step up our outreach to the community to make sure that everyone is aware of what is going on and to renew our resolve,” said Can-Do spokesperson, George Niemann. “This is our way to demonstrate our resilience and commitment to pursue this fight for our community.”
The project in question is the Bloomingdale Mixed Use Development (MUD), which involves plans for 158,800 sq. ft. big box store—most believe to be a Walmart—with 720 parking spaces, five out-parcels as well as a residential complex with 261 apartments proposed.
Niemann said that since the decision made during a public meeting in September to push forward by means of a lawsuit against Hillsborough County, much has been accomplished and with the funds available and the case prepared by their attorney, residents were ready to take the next step.
“We are seeking declaratory judgment,” Niemann said. “We are asking the court to look at and review the process that Hillsborough County used to approve and grant entitlement to Red Cast to move forward with their project.”
Niemann explained that the process in question made a way to allow a land use change verses a rezoning of the 42-acre parcel, which left the community in the dark about what was to happen within their own back yards.
Residents say they hope the current land use specification from MUD to Traditional Neighborhood Development (TND), which they say was inappropriately changed without the BOCC following the proper process, will be reversed.
“A favorable ruling on our behalf would result in the necessity for the developer to begin the process all over again, starting with a rezoning meeting, which we will attend in force,” Niemann said.
Recently speaking to the County Commission, Niemann emphasized the impact on the community if the development at its current status moves forward.
“You are facing 20,000 people who are affected by this project,” Niemann said. “If you don’t take notice today, you will when you are sitting in traffic on Bloomingdale Ave., an already failed road. We can’t guarantee the outcome of our fight, but it is worth to give it a shot.”
Supporting the push to take the fight to court, Lithia Oaks resident Carol Robison strongly urged her fellow residents to support the legal action against the County and Red Cast when she said, “We must hold them responsible for their actions.”