COUNTY BUYS 70 ACRES OF FLATWOODS--BUT FOR WHAT?--Andrew Stelzer

04/07/04

Last night, Hillsborough county commissioner Jim Norman came to Benito Middle School in New Tampa to hear what citizens had to say about the possible purchase of 70 acres of land of the edge of Flatwoods Park. Although the county voted today to buy the land. There may be a battle brewing between those who want it to be turned into ball fields, and other people who want it to be preserved as environmental land. ----------------------------------

ACT “I’m torn….

John means was a youth soccer coach and referee for more than 20 years.

ACT “…get it but if you build a facility you cant go back…�

About 40 people attended the public hearing, and more than 30 of them spoke. Of these, roughly 2/3rds advocated for keeping the 70 acres area as it is, with minor improvements including creating trails for hiking, biking, and light recreational activities.

But several people said the area is in need of ball fields, and athletic facilities for kids. .Dennis O’Connor is the president of new Tampa soccer association.

ACT “there are kids and older kids who need this land desperately. Ill take my kids hiking in the woods. I’ve seen it change. As a coach, I’ve driven through Pasco and Pinellas.

2 years ago, the Tampa Bay Bucs wanted to buy the same piece of land and make it into a practice facility. The county commission rejected this plan, because of the adverse effect it would have on the environment. Gina miller works with the Hillsborough green rivers task force. She said the land should be used for hiking, birding, biking as it is now, and to develop it, even into ball fields, would harm the environment.

ACT “We have concerns about a youth sports facility.."lighting, flooding, run-off, mudlands.�

Miller recommended that a separate parcel of land, at the intersection of Bruce B downs and Cross Creek, could be used for athletic facilities. However, commissioner Norman said that there would only be 15 acres available on that site after widening Bruce b downs boulevard and building a planned cultural center. People on both sides of the issue seemed sympathetic each other’s views, and everyone was in agreement that the land should be purchased.

The root of the problem was identified as bad planning in creating New Tampa. In the last 15 years, communities of subdivisions have sprung up, and they were planned and built without any regard for the needs of the families who would live there. Ed Ross has lived in Tampa, since 1968.

ACT “Over the time that I’ve been involved in the state of Florida, we’ve lost a lot because if uncontrolled growth….I’d suggest that the problems of no baseball fields cant mean Flatwoods get lost......the county commissioners cant approve plans for developments without ball fields…I agree with the man who talked about baseball, it because someone has ripped you off.�

That same county commission voted to purchase the 70 acres of land this morning, but not without some disagreements. Initially, commissioner Pat frank said they should buy it, and attach conditions that it will only be used for light recreation. But commissioner Norman said that wouldn’t be fair, because he told the public yesterday that the vote would simply be on whether to purchase the land or not. He said the decision of how to use the land would be decided at a later date.

ACT

Commissioner Frank disagreed, saying that the commission never agreed that the vote would only be on one issue, and she believes commissioner Norman’s agenda is to eventually make it an athletic complex, which the public, and the commission, already said they don’t want two years ago.

ACT

Commissioner Storms said she thinks the Tampa bay Bucs plans for the land were different from those currently being discussed, and she is open to some sort of mixed use of the area.

ACT

The commission voted 7 to 0 to purchase the land, but commissioner Frank said she would not support anything except passive use for the land.

ACT Commissioner FRANK-“I won’t support this if it’s for anything less than passive recreation. No matter what�

Under the agreement passed, the piece of land is designated to be used for Parks, recreation, or conservation purposes. The county’s purchase of the property means that a lawsuit against the county will be dropped. Commissioners are also trying to get the Environmental Lands Acquisition and Protection program to purchase the land. There is no money available right now to pay for future development, what form that development will take is to be determined at future public hearings.

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