PALM HARBOR, Fla. — Palm Harbor neighbors won a hurdle Thursday against rezoning land to build a storage facility on Alternate 19.
So many people showed up, county officials had to put some of them into an overflow room. Dozens of them signed up to speak before the Local Planning Agency. The public hearing lasted for hours.
“They don’t know what they’re doing to this community,” said Linda Bock, the neighbor that spearheaded the movement against turning the nearly five acres of undeveloped land into a storage facility.
"I think it’s very clear what the answer should be,” said Theresa Whiddon, who lives down the street.
She says the facility doesn’t work, especially with Missouri Avenue being the main road in and out.
"I use it all the time and two cars cannot pass each other without going into someone’s lawn,” she said.
They’re concerned about traffic backing up on Alt 19 when people turn onto Missouri. They say safety for folks on the Pinellas trail is also something they worry about. Many people that are unfamiliar with the area don’t realize they have to stop and let pedestrians and bicyclists pass.
They also believe taking away the undeveloped land will cause flooding and have a significant impact on the habitat for animals living there now.
"I think there are more disadvantages and there are advantages,” said Kris Meyer, who also lives down the street.
The folks behind the project, NorthPoint Development say they thought their proposal addressed neighbors concerns.
In a statement, they say, “As discussed at the meeting, we made attempts to be flexible with our site plan, to accommodate significant buffers of 50 to 130 feet between our building and the neighbors' lots on the west and south, and had worked to come up with an access option that would provide for a lower traffic impact on Missouri Ave than what other development options for the property would otherwise be able to provide.”
They’re disappointed with the planning agencies decision to unanimously reject the rezoning.
"I respect the fact they are saying yes we will make the necessary changes but it’s not just this one building it’s that we’re changing the zoning and that is setting a precedent,” said Meyer.
In August, the Pinellas County Commissioners will have the final say on whether this project will go through or not. The applicants plan on being there.
"We intend to continue to engage with the community on development options,” they said.