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Hillsborough Commissioner: Traffic to get worse after housing development is approved

Posted: 4:22 PM, Sep 16, 2019
Updated: 2019-09-16 18:38:27-04
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SUN CITY CENTER, Fla. — Just because an item has been voted on and approved does not mean the chapter has closed. Hillsborough County Commissioner Mariella Smith of District 5 has made that very clear with her latest social media post.

In a Facebook post Smith points out her dislike for the way four of her fellow commissioners voted:

“TRAFFIC IS ABOUT TO GET WORSE in South Hillsborough County thanks to 4 County Commissioners who just approved a huge new subdivision in the rural area southeast of Wimauma," the post reads. "This new subdivision with 1,188 houses will add 10,920 more car trips per day on South County roads through Sun City Center, Wimauma, Balm, Riverview, Ruskin, and Apollo Beach.”

The development is slated to bring 1,800 or more homes to a wooded area not too far from the congested area of Sun City Boulevard.

According to Commissioner Smith, this could draw up to 11,000 commuters onto Hillsborough County roads and possibly into Tampa as well.

“It makes big subdivisions full of commuters who have to drive long distances from their homes into the urban core of Tampa and Brandon to their jobs every day,” she said.

Smith also pointed out in an interview that taxpayers will eventually have to pay out of pocket to improve the infrastructure in that area because of the increased traffic.

As ABC Action News was filming alongside S. U.S. 301 and Saffold Road, where the development will ultimately be, residents came forward to tell us how unhappy they are about the decision, saying the way of life for them will be changed for the worse.

We reached out to county commissioners who decided to approve the land-use agreement.

Ken Hagan of District 2, voted for the agreement and tells ABC Action News his rationale for his decision is two fold. According to Hagan, the application had approval from review agencies and when he asked the County Attorney’s Office if there was any legal basis to deny the application, the answer was no.

Stacy White of District 4, also voted in favor of the development and sent the following statement:

“As you know, the rezoning process is a complex quasi-judicial proceeding where the Board of County Commissioners (the board) sits like a judge and jury to determine whether or not a rezoning request is consistent with The Future of Hillsborough Comprehensive Plan for Unincorporated Hillsborough County (the comprehensive plan).
 
In order to be on sound legal footing, the Board must determine that there is competent, substantial evidence that the request is inconsistent with the comprehensive plan in order to deny a rezoning request. In this case, I did not see competent substantial evidence of inconsistency with the comprehensive plan. I will add that I have been a staunch advocate for better growth management.
 
The interesting thing about land use decisions in Hillsborough County is that the board also controls the comprehensive plan, but on a legislative basis. This is where the Board  can make meaningful changes and be on solid legal footing. In fact, I recently championed an effort to amend key comprehensive plan policies in south Hillsborough County in an effort to address concerns from the community. The process of making these changes will be beginning soon. This means that future rezonings would have to be consistent with the new comprehensive plan policies in order to be approved.
 
Changing direction on the complex policies in a county the size of Hillsborough can be painstaking to the point that some short term battles will be lost, but I am committed to making things better with a longer range view that keeps the board on solid legal footing.”

Les Miller of District 3 and Sandy Murman of District 1 also voted in favor of the application but have not gotten back to us yet.

Hillsborough County residents and those interested in seeing what kind of zoning projects are in the works can check out an interactive map here .