Give county direction on growth
The county is asking for our input on our Comprehensive Plan. Again. It feels like Groundhog Day all over again: the county asked for our input, tossed out our input, and now they’re asking for our input again. But look closer at who’s listening to us and who’s not:
Our county planners in the Planning Commission asked for our input and collected 3,000 comments during years of meetings, then wrote a major Plan update. Then, our County Commissioners, influenced by developers, trashed that update without a proper public hearing. The commissioners directed the planners to take more input from “the development community” and redo the update. The planners are inviting everyone to comment.
They are holding two series of meetings on our blueprint for growth for the unincorporated area. (The cities have their own plans.) One series is for “stakeholders,” one is for the rest of us.
“Stakeholders” is a code-word for special interests, but they can’t hang a sign on the front doors of County Center saying “Developers Only,” so a handful of us citizen activists have been crashing the “stakeholders” meetings. The first meeting had only 4 citizens to balance 27 building industry lawyers and lobbyists. You are welcome at these meetings, too — well, you’re welcome by the county planners, if not the “stakeholders” — but be warned: these meetings are choked with developers’ lawyers combing through the Plan line-by-line, haggling over every other word.
I recommend you come to one of the meetings for the rest of us. Tell our planners how you want them to manage growth. Here are a few ideas:
- Strengthen rules meant to keep development from overcrowding our roads and schools.
- Growth must pay its own way, not suck our wallets & watersheds dry.
- New development should benefit — or at least not harm — current residents. If it would lower our quality of life, just say “No!”
- Do not allow urban sprawl into the rural area.
- Protect our environment and natural resources.
- Require better wetland buffers as proposed by EPC.
- Save our agricultural lands for agriculture.
- Implement the Livable Roadways Guidelines and take Hillsborough out of the top ranking of bicycle/pedestrian fatalities.
- Put the Livable Communities Element back in the Plan.
Tell us your ideas so we can all emphasize the best ones.
Open house meetings will be on the following Thursdays, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.
June 28: Gaither High School
16200 N. Dale Mabry Highway, Tampa, FL 33618
July 12: HCC Brandon Campus
10414 E. Columbus Drive, Tampa, FL 33619
July 19: South Shore Regional Library
15816 Beth Shields Way, Ruskin, FL 33573
July 26: Alonso High School
8402 Montague Street, Tampa, FL 33635
For information contact the Planning Commission: 813.272.5940 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our planners will report all the comments — from the developers and the citizens — to the commissioners. Let them also report that we have not given up; that the developers cannot wear us down by dragging out the process; that we are watching our commissioners and we will vote them OUT if they do not incorporate our wishes in our plan for our county.