Local District 4 County Commissioner Michael Owen has played a significant role in several Southeastern Hillsborough County initiatives since his election last November. These include the Lithia Pinecrest PD&E study, a potential elevated Selmon Expressway running from Brandon to Big Bend along U.S. Highway 301 and creation of the Valrico Community Plan, which gives residents of Valrico a voice when it comes to future growth.
“The purpose of the community plan is for Valrico to have a seat at the table when it comes to growth, just like Brandon, Ruskin, Riverview and Apollo Beach,” said Owen in our recent interview. “Valrico, to me, is not an urban area like Brandon; … Brandon, to me, is now the urban core. (And since) Valrico does not have one, developers have been using the Brandon Plan when proposing their projects in Valrico. People living on the east side of Valrico are probably going to have a different opinion than do those living on the west side, and that’s why we need everyone at the table from all parts of our community to create this plan. Turnout from the entire community and not just a core group is essential to the plan’s success.”
When asked about a downtown, he said, “I would think on Highway 60 near the Winn-Dixie. That area is where you would want to concentrate your shopping and mixed-use. The fact is a lot of developers will reference Brandon when we all know that Valrico is not Brandon. We live on the edge of the Urban Service Area. Large-scale apartment complexes and heavy commercial projects where there’s no public transportation and few jobs doesn’t make a lot of sense at this time.”
Owen stressed this plan opens the opportunity for residents to address “enhancements — green space, paths, lights, roundabout, sidewalks — things that make our area safer and more walking and bike friendly. These types of enhancements can be built into the community plan so the developers’ representatives (lawyers) know what will be required of them when submitting plans for new projects in Valrico. If developers know what is expected from them, this should lead to more cohesive and unified development.”
For residents living in the 33596 ZIP code who are already included in the Brandon community (Bloomingdale East, Oakdale Riverview Estates, Lithia Oaks and Valencia Ridge), “they will live in coalescence and be considered residents of both Valrico as well as Brandon community plans. This allows everyone in our area to participate and have a say in future growth. I think it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Owen said.
Currently, there are 22 community plans within unincorporated Hillsborough County. Owen wants Valrico citizens to be entitled to the same benefits that other community plans present. All plans are available for review in the Livable Communities Element of the Hillsborough County Comprehensive Plan at https://planhillsborough.org/community-planning.
For anyone who has completed the online survey, as well as all those that participated in the community meetings held at Mulrennan Middle School on July 22 and July 24 or the virtual meeting, Owen and his staff would like to thank you being an important part of the Valrico community and look forward to accomplishing great things together.
To contact Owen, call 813-272-5740, fax 813-272-7049, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.