Thursday, November 21, 2013

An early Christmas for Commissioner Hagan

Posted By on Thu, Nov 21, 2013 at 4:10 PM

SantaPullingOutGift_11-21-13.jpg

Politicians don't always get what they want, but one politician did, and just in time for Christmas, even if it's a little early.

The Hillsborough County Commission had approved a huge development that came to be known as the Bloomingdale Big Box. It includes plans for a supersized big box retailer, a 260 unit apartment complex, and a number of other retail stores all jam-packed into an area that already has big boxes and failed roads. When the community learned about it, they were outraged. They sent tons of emails protesting the development. Hillsborough County Commission Chair Ken Hagan, in one of his terse responses to a concerned citizen, said that if the community didn't like what the county dished out, they should sue.

Well, Santa will be putting something in Commissioner Hagan's stocking today. It will be a bright, shiny lawsuit naming Hillsborough County and Red Cast Bloomingdale LLC as defendants in a declaratory judgment complaint.

The lawsuit is asking a judge to review the process that was used in giving a developer the right to cram a huge complex on a parcel in east Hillsborough (Bloomingdale Ave, just west of Lithia Pinecrest Rd in Valrico) that is already overcrowded with big retailers and has serious traffic problems. Approval for this development was done through a Land Development Code (LDC) change, instead of a rezoning. The suit claims that the process used was, in effect, a subjectively crafted bypass to a full rezoning, which would have given the surrounding community a right to effectively weigh in on what was being proposed. And as such, the suit claims that citizens' constitutional rights were violated. The county has already said that they will defend themselves vigorously in this lawsuit. So, it looks like it's game on.

When the community expressed their outrage to the Hillsborough County Commission, the county admitted it was a bad decision but said that they couldn't do anything about it, which further incensed local residents.

The community fought back by forming a non-profit called Bloomingdale CANDO Inc. They began raising money to fund a legal challenge and setup a website (www.BloomingdaleBigBox.com). The local response has been good, and is continuing. CANDO is now reaching out to other nearby communities, as well as, the whole Tampa Bay area, asking for financial support to keep the legal challenge going until the county fixes the problem they created. As you might imagine, it won't be cheap forcing the county to do the right thing.

All these citizens want is for their county to make sure that this development meets the critical standards of the community that it will serve. It should improve the quality of life of local residents and should be something they want and need before it receives any approval. And the process should be consistent and fair with no "bypasses" to the process, arbitrarily handed out to special interests at the whim of county government

What they want is simple and reasonable. It's a shame that they have to go to court to get it.

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