Ruskin resident get satisfaction from Hillsborough County Commissioners Denying a developer by Mitch E. Perry

03/08/06

The Hillsborough County Commission today did something that critics say is uncharacteristic – saying no to a developer’s project….

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Scores of residents from the Hillsborough County town of Ruskin came to Tampa today, some supporting, but many opposing a proposed subdivision at the County Land Use Meeting today.

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The Developers – Manatee Bay Associates, and its parent company – Earthmark – had plans for 2 new neighborhoods – totaling about 427 new homes – to be built in Ruskin.

But the Commission reduced one such proposal from 67 homes to 40, and outright rejected the other.

Today’s discussion lasted for several hours, in part because there were 3 different re-zoning votes the Commission had to weigh in on.

Keith Brickleymeyer is an Attorney for property owners, Manatee Bay Associates. He said that arguments against his clients development were absurd (roll tape#1 o.q.�recommendations of approval�)

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The first proposal was to essentially okay a land exchange agreement, which would allow
Earthmark to finish a 1500 condomininum project called Little Harbor – that was supported without much debate by the Commission.

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But the 2nd proposal included involved a land swap….The developers were hoping for an exchange – splitting a 160 acre of property it owns north and south of Shell Point Road in Ruskin, and giving the environmentally sensitive half to the county. In return, the County would give up 13 acres.

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But many residents from the area spoke out against it.

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Mariella Smith is President of the Ruskin Chapter of the Sierra Club. Smith and many others opposed the land swap wore t-shirts that read, “Save our River and Ruskin! (roll tape#2 o.q.�river and bay�)

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Ruskin resident Anita Jiminez challenged the developers comment that their plan had wide spread support in the community (roll tape#3 o.q.�dense development�)

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Glenn Wright from Sun City Center said he wanted to talk about economics and public safety concerns (roll tape#4 o.q.�that’s what you want to do�)

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Before the meeting broke for lunch, County Chairman Jim Norman severely questioned Land Use Manager Paula Harvey when she could not come up with an answer about how much density would happen if a proposed land swap would happen? (roll tape#4 o.q.�you’ve got to make it plainer than this�)

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When discussing the landswap, Commissioner Mark sharpe offered up a compromise from the 67 home project not from Earthmark (roll tape#5 o.q.�40 units�)

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The commission agreed to allow 40 homes to be built , on 6-1 vote, with Commissioner Castro dissenting.

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The third and final motion before the Board would have been to support a 360-home project called Riverton.

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But that proposal went down to an outright defeat…..Hillsborough County Commission Ronda Storms said she sided with the Ruskin critics, even if she felt that it was endorsing a form of socialism, as she conjured up the memory of the man whose spirit led to the creation of Ruskin, Englishman John Ruskin (roll tape#6 o.q.�as you do it�)

After the project for 360 homes in Ruskin was denied, WMNF spoke late this afternoon with the leader of the movement to kill the development, Sierra Club member Mariella Smith (roll tape#1 o.q.�Aquatic preserve�)

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