Hillsborough willing to give Tampa seat at EPC table

11/13/07 Mitch E. Perry
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The Hillsborough County Commission voted today to support allowing the city of Tampa to have some representation on the County’s Environmental Protection Commission - but not to the extent that the Tampa City Council was hoping for.

The board gathered today to gauge their support for seven bills the Hillsborough County Legislative delegation will consider bringing up next year in Tallahassee.

The Commission opted to support Tampa Rep. Kevin Ambler’s bill, that would give Tampa two representatives on the EPC, and one each to Temple Terrace and Plant City. The County Commission would retain five seats. It would also increase the county’s representation on the Tampa Sports Authority, but leave the Planning Commission unchanged.

That’s more that what the local cities have ever had on the EPC, but falls far short of Tampa City Councilwoman Mary Mulhern’s goal of Tampa having four representatives on the EPC. That plan, being sponsored by Plant City Republican Rich Glorioso, also calls for four representatives from the county, and one each to Temple Terrace and Plant City.

County Commissioner Mark Sharpe said he supported both bills.

But Commissioner Jim Norman, who seems intent on getting more county representation on the Sports Authority, told Sharpe that his stance was untenable, and that he needed to back only one plan.

Norman said the Glorioso/Mulhern plan would give the cities more representatives on the EPC, and said it made no sense to concede that much power.

Last year, Ambler’s bill contained provisions to increase Hillsborough County’s representation on the Sports Authority and the Planning Commission, with the argument being that the county has grown more than Tampa and deserves more representation on those boards.

Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio fought against such legislation, and Ambler’s bill did not get support from the other members of the Hillsborough legislative delegation.

But this new bill will be different.

Sharpe expressed concern about the politics of altering the Planning Commission. The board agreed with Sharpe, and pulled any reconfiguration of the Planning Commission from Ambler’s bill.

But Norman is still intent on increasing the county’s representation on the Sports Authority.

Commissioner Rose Ferlita said she supported Councilwoman’s Mulhern’s idea, but also agreed that the County had made a fair compromise in omitting any changes to the Planning Commission.

The board unanimously said they could not support another bill sponsored by Glorioso that would relax the EPC’s wetlands regulations of agricultural lands.

Norman said work needs to be done with the agricultural community in Hillsborough County.

A public hearing on all the bills is scheduled for Dec. 7. The bills must win the support of three of Hillsborough’s four state senators and eight of 12 representatives to move on to the state apitol next year.

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