By Tamas Mondovics

In a 5-2 vote during its regularly scheduled meeting in early August, the Hillsborough County Board of County Commission (BOCC) gave the approval for a brand new senior assisted living facility project to be built west of the intersection of Lithia Pinecrest and Valrico Roads in Valrico.

The five “for” and two “against” vote of the project by Hawthorn Retirement Group, an independent and assisted living management company came on the heels of requests for denial by the city-county planning commission as well as the zoning hearing master Susan Finch, both whom expressed their conclusion that the project goes against the Brandon Community Plan.

The project in question is located on a 10-acre parcel on the west of the intersection of Lithia Pinecrest Rd. and Valrico Rd., between Lithia Pinecrest Rd, and Timber Knoll Dr., across from a retention pond and lift station. The facility plans to build a 53,000 sq. ft., three-story building with room for 145 suites and more than 100 parking places.

Ahead of the vote, the County Planning Commission has determined that the Comprehensive Plan Amendment, HC/CPA 17-05 (proposed land use) was inconsistent with the goals, objectives and policies of the Future of Hillsborough Comprehensive Plan for Unincorporated Hillsborough County, and resolved to forward its recommendation to the Board of County Commissioners for denial.

Officials in part said that the primary impact of the land use change would allow more intense uses on the property and would change the scale of potential development from suburban to more of an urban development pattern that is compatible with the existing low-density residential development pattern in the area.

The two votes to shut down the project came from Commissioners Stacy White whose District 4 includes the Brandon/Valrico area, as well as Pat Kemp, who holds a countywide seat.

“This area is congested enough without adding any additional large-scale development,” White said.  

Area residents reportedly expressed their frustration over the BOCC’s decision referring to the number of County professionals who spoke out against the project and its incompatibility with the County’s comprehensive plan.

In his most recent newsletter White emphasized that as discussions on the Board of County Commissioners and the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Board occur, transportation continues to be a key focus for him.  

In recent news articles White was quoted on his dismay over some of the recent changes by HART’s bus system redesign, including his quote in the Tampa Bay Times saying: “I’m not going to sugar coat it: they got hosed. It’s terrible for residents in unincorporated Hillsborough.”

Despite pleas, HART approved a bus system cutting 20 percent of routes. White was the lone “no” vote in a 12-1 decision. 

Neighbors are reportedly planning to appeal the ruling. If the BOCC’s decision stays, the project—Hawthorn’s 47th in the US—is slated to begin in November 2018 with a completion time of 12 to 18 months.

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