Neighbors fuming over plans to expand food pantry

Posted at 5:31 PM, Jul 14, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-14 18:25:23-04

A place that helps thousands of people get access to food, clothing and jobs, is facing neighborhood backlash. 

Oldsmar Cares has plans to expand to the lot right next door. Currently the food and clothing bank is housed in a tiny cottage at 163 FL-580 in Oldsmar. The expansion will make the building 3,000 square feet and will allow the non-profit to help more people.

Dave Tootle isn't at all thrilled about the expansion. He's lived on Jefferson Avenue S in Oldsmar for 34 years.

“It’s a very peaceful neighborhood, it really is,” he said.

The Oldsmar Cares expansion will be built on the lot right next door to him, and has him considering something he never thought he would.

“I may not have any choice but to sell the house and move out,” he explained.

Neighbors are worried about increased traffic, people parking along their narrow residential street and people walking around their neighborhood on the way into and out of the food and clothing pantry.

"They tell us it will not be a homeless shelter, but even so, we just don't know what kind of characters this new building will attract," Tootle explained.

In a few weeks, crews will start construction on the new Oldsmar Cares location, which already helps 10,000 people with rent assistance, utility payments, job placement, children and adult clothing and food instability. The extra space will allow them to take in more donations and help more families. 

Shiela Manny, a volunteer for Oldsmar Cares explained, "This will really help us expand the help we can offer. I just have a good feeling when I come in here because I’m doing something to help people.”

The charity has been around the neighborhood for years, so Manny and the other volunteers didn’t expect so much backlash.

“I was surprised. I was surprised. We’ve been here for several years and I don’t think our neighbors have ever had a problem,” she explained.

Cheryle Gauthier worries a bigger building will bring more traffic and the planned 11 parking spaces won’t be enough. “Parking, oh that’s going to be a real issue. They'll be lined up and down our streets,” Gauthier explained.

She also worries about crowds.

“You’ve got these people just wondering the streets. We don’t know them.”

The city of Oldsmar already nixed plans for a neighborhood entrance to the new Oldsmar Cares building, but they say construction will go on, starting within the next few weeks.

Gauthier says that may send her packing too.

“In the next few years we’ll be gone. We picked this neighborhood for its quiet charm,” she added.

The new Oldsmar Cares building hopes to be open by January.

"And we know this is going to be a wonderful asset to the community," Manny exclaimed.