By Tamas Mondovics
When the meeting was over, the more than 30 Brandon area residents who showed up to face the Hillsborough County Board of County Commission (BOCC) in opposition of a proposed RaceTrac gas station to be built on land located on the Southwest corner of Lumsden Rd. and Kings Ave., felt somewhat relieved, at least for one more month.
The rezoning request left for last on the BOCC’s Land Use Meeting agenda ended with the Board’s 6-0 vote to postpone its final decision until its next meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, July 21.
The at times awkward discussion, which was prompted by residents who spoke with determination to protect their neighborhood and the wildlife that still makes use of what little is left for them, involved a proposed 8,000 sq. ft. retail market with gas pumps to be built on approximately 2.5 acres on a portion of the 30-acre parcel that includes wetlands.
“It was truly a test of endurance as we were literally the last item to be heard, almost three hours into the meeting,” said Brandon area resident Vivian Bacca, who has been instrumental in leading the effort against the project. “I feared they would break for lunch and make us come back, but instead, the most amazing thing happened.”
In reply to his notion that the developer is actually making efforts to “finding balance with this project and understanding the value of wetlands” as well as his motion of approval of the applicants request, Commissioner Al Higginbotham (Countywide) failed to get any support from his fellow board members to second the motion.
“It was almost like a dead silence come over the room,” Bacca said.
Instead, Commissioner Stacy White (District 4) who represents residents living in the Brandon area, asked a series of questions, drawing attention to the need for a clearer understanding of the Environmental Protection Commission’s (EPC) role in the decision making process.
In an apparent effort to make the right decision, the Board decided to revisit the proposal, coupled with input from the EPC, shedding some light on how the wetlands process will work.
“If this goes through it will destroy the wetlands behind it,” said Brandon resident Lela Lilyquist, who was also displeased with what she called “an insensitive comment” by BOCC Chair Commissioner Sandra Murman, who called the corner parcel in question, an “eyesore,” adding, “It is a corner of campaign signs that collect there and garbage and stuff.”
Bacca emphasized that no matter what happens she was proud of those that were willing to show their support on behalf of their community and the wildlife that makes their neighborhood so unique.
This, was a job for the “Die Hards,” she said. “Those that were willing to stand up and show that while everything seems to favor the developers, we’re not ready to give up.”
For more information about the project RZ 15-0175, visit www,hillsboroughcounty.org, or call Lela Lilyquist at 493-9644.