BRANDON — The Hillsborough County City-County Planning Commission and residents of the Buckhorn Estates and Timber Knoll subdivisions expressed opposition to a proposed apartment complex a company wants to build at the corner of South Valrico Road and Lithia Pinecrest Road.
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At Monday night's Hillsborough County Zoning Hearing Master meeting, both the commission and neighboring homeowners spoke against the rezoning of an 8.8-acre wooded site just north of South Valrico Road on the westerly side of Lithia Pinecrest Road to accommodate the addition of a senior adult housing community.
Hawthorn Retirement Group, headquartered in Vancouver, Wash., has proposed building a 134,305 square-foot, three-story apartment complex to accommodate 159 seniors, a request that requires changing the county's comprehensive plan zoning status on the parcel from Agricultural Single-Family Conventional (ASC-1) to a Planned Development (PD) land use designation.
"The current plan designates that only four residential components are allowed per acre," said planning commission senior planner Melissa Lienhard. "The Hawthorn Retirement Group, however, is seeking a change in the designation to allow nine residences per acre to accommodate the potential of 35 apartment dwelling units."
It would change the scale of future development from suburban to more of an urban pattern, she said, which would not be compatible with the existing low-density development in the area.
Lienhard also expressed concerns in union with several area residents who voiced objections to the height of the structures, a mere 50-foot buffer to abutting homes in the Timber Knoll neighborhood, and the increase in traffic on the already overburdened Lithia Pinecrest Road.
"The planning commission's objective is to maintain the character of existing development, including the existing residential neighborhoods and those that may emerge in the future," she said. "We look favorably toward the creation of like uses, complimentary uses, and the mitigation of adverse impacts like transportation connections."
Lynea Warren D'Angelo, a 25-year resident of Buckhorn Estates, stood front and center at Monday's hearing, outfitted in a red jacket in a show of opposition to Hawthorn Retirement Group's proposal. She sat amid a contingent of about a half dozen of similarly dressed neighbors until it came time to further voice her thoughts on the issue.
D'Angelo worries about the negative impact the senior living complex could have on her slightly more distant neighbors northwest of her who live in Timber Knoll, an upscale community of homes adjacent to the proposed project.
"It's not compatible with the surrounding area and a three-story building towering over those homes and the rest of the community is not acceptable. Nor is a 50-foot buffer the developer is proposing," D'Angelo said.
She also believes the configuration of the driveway in and out of the complex doesn't line up with the traffic signal on South Valrico Road and could pose a serious traffic hazard.
D'Angelo also expressed those and other grievances during an April 10 planning commission meeting about the proposed project.
"Lithia Pinecrest was never built for this kind of project. It is extremely downhill so when it floods it all goes downhill," she said, as she pointed to a map showing the south-to-north downward slant in the road.
It didn't seem to matter to her or others in her group that when Todd Pressman, a land use consultant representing the Hawthorn Retirement Group, told hearing master Susan Finch the company wanted to be a "good neighbor" and would be willing to build an opaque buffer and surround it with Florida native trees and other landscaping enhancements.
Other residents cited concerns about the proposal increasing traffic and changing the setting of the neighborhood.
The Board of County Commission will vote on the issue on June 13, based in part on the zoning hearing master's recommendation following Monday's meeting.
Contact Joyce McKenzie at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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