By Tamas Mondovics

The future of a proposed senior citizen retirement residence and assisted living facility to be built in the heart of Valrico is in the hands of the Hillsborough County Board of County Commission.

In pursuit of its plans, to build a new facility, Hawthorn Retirement Group, (HRT) an independent and assisted living management company (Not related to Hawthorne Village Retirement Communtiy of Brandon), presented its case for a proposed land use before the Hillsborough County Planning Commission, which has determined that Comprehensive Plan Amendment, HC/CPA 17-05 (proposed land use) is inconsistent with the goals, objectives and policies of the Future of Hillsborough Comprehensive Plan for Unincorporated Hillsborough County.

The Planning Commission also resolved to forward its recommendation to the Board of County Commissioners for denial of the project during its meeting in June.

The effort, however, was not HRT’s first try. In its case summary the Planning Commission staff stated that a similar request, HC/CPA 16-19, was part of the July 2016 Unincorporated Hillsborough County Comprehensive Plan Amendment Cycle.

The summary stated that request, RES-4 to RES-9 on the same parcel, was found inconsistent by the Planning Commission and denied by the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC), adding that “the applicant has now resubmitted the request as a new Comprehensive Plan Amendment, HC/CPA 17-05.”

By the numbers, HRT is requesting to change the nearly 400,000 sq. ft. parcel located on the west side of the intersection of Lithia Pinecrest and Valrico Rd., between Lithia Pinecrest Rd., and Timber Knoll Dr., across from a pond and lift station to build a 53,000 sq. ft., facility with 100 parking places, with a three story building, and room for 145 suites.

According to the Planning Commission the primary impact of this change would be to allow more intense uses on the property and increase the allowable density and intensity. It added that the proposed amendment would change the scale of potential development from suburban to more of an urban development pattern, which they said would not be compatible with the existing low-density residential development pattern in the area.

In a recent letter to the Commission, Chuck Sackett of Valrico asked commissioners for their continued support of Timber Knoll residents and “produce a finding that the requested plan amendment is inconsistent with the Comprehensive Plan and the surrounding residential neighborhoods.”

Keeping his comments brief and only on the project’s Comprehensive Plan element, Hillsborough County Commissioner Stacy White, whose district covers the site stated, “The Planning Commission’s recommendation is an important factor to me and I always give staff’s recommendation due consideration as I am formulating my own decision.”

Of course the Planning Commission’s recommendation does not mean that the project is withdrawn. One of the Commission’s main objective is neighborhood protection. Whether the project gets approved or denied is ultimately depends on the BOCC, which is yet to consider the input and recommendations of other agencies before the final decision.

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