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Town 'N' Country neighbors fear apartment development will increase flood risk, traffic

Seeking to build 329 apartments near Old Tampa Bay, a developer has submitted a rezoning request to Hillsborough County
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Posted at 7:17 AM, Jul 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-25 07:31:42-04

TOWN 'N' COUNTRY, Fla. — Robin Pokoj’s waterfront home is her happy place.

“If you come home from work and you’ve had a really stressful day, you can sit out there and look at the water,” she said.

Her Town ‘N Country home abuts Sweetwater Creek, which flows into Old Tampa Bay just south of her subdivision, Sweetwater at Rocky Point.

In the 27 years that she’s lived in the subdivision, Pokoj has seen changes. Traffic has increased. The clarity of Sweetwater Creek has declined. The latest potential change, though, has her particularly concerned.

Onicx Group, a Tampa-based developer, wants to transform the 8.4-acre lot just across the creek from the neighborhood. The Scottish Rite Temple is located on that lot currently.

The developer’s application calls for a 25,000 sq. ft. new temple, a 4,500 sq. ft. building of business/office space, and 246,888 sq. ft. of commercial apartments in a three or four-story building. According to a traffic analysis filed with Hillsborough County, the development will include 329 multi-family units.

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For the development to proceed as planned, the land will have to be rezoned from “Business Professional Office” to “Planned Development.”

It’s a request Pokoj, and fellow neighbors plan to fight.

“You’re proposing to build a significantly high-density housing unit in a coastal high hazard region. So, at best, it’s going to be detrimental to the community,” she said. “At worst, it’s going to be tragic.”

Pokoj and fellow neighbors do not believe the development fits in the area, which is in a coastal floodplain.

Pokoj said flood water approached homes in the past, and she fears the additional concrete and asphalt will accentuate that risk.

“By building a high-rise apartment complex there, you’re getting rid of all of the land that would absorb that floodwater,” she said.

Neighbors also worry about how the development would impact traffic on Memorial Highway, which borders the Scottish Rite property and Sweetwater subdivision to the north.

According to a 2020 study, that section of Memorial Highway has an Average Annual Daily Traffic count of 40,600 and was given a failing daily “Level of Service” rating.

“Adding a 329 apartment complex is going to make it that much worse,” Pokoj said. “It’s already bad during primary rush hours to and from work. It’s just going to make it unbearable.”

The rezoning request is scheduled to receive its first public hearing on August 15 at 6 p.m. at the Robert W. Saunders, Sr. Public Library at 1505 N. Nebraska Ave. in Tampa, and neighbors like Pokoj hope county leaders will listen to their concerns.

Additionally, neighbors say the development team from Onicx Group will meet with them Tuesday, July 26 at 6:30 p.m. at Rocky Point Golf Course.

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“This is going to impact all of us,” she said. “I mean, it would set a really bad precedent.”

ABC Action News reached out to Halff Associates, which is representing Onicx, but has not yet heard back.

According to the application sent to Hillsborough County, the Onicx believes the development will improve the appearance of the Scottish Rite property and provide the county with much-needed housing.

“Overall, the request is compatible with the surrounding area and is consistent with the Comprehensive Plan,” the development team concludes.

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