TAMPA — Nobody can say for certain how guidelines meant to steer orderly development in Ruskin got left out of Hillsborough County’s blueprint for future growth eight years ago. But county commissioners agreed Thursday to remedy the omission.
The standards, hammered out by community activists, land-use attorneys and some of the area’s large land owners, were laid out to determine where, in four areas of the community, developers can construct multifamily complexes, which areas should remain rural and which will retain historic home lot sizes.
For county planners to use them as a rudder for steering zoning changes in the Ruskin area, the standards must be made part of the Land Development Code, County Attorney Chip Fletcher told commissioners during a land-use board meeting.
The guidelines won’t be hard and fast rules, he said, but will be used to determine if a project meets the requirements of the Ruskin Community Plan.
“Can they put their fist down and say (a developer) absolutely can’t proceed if they don’t comply? No,” Fletcher said. But, county planners can use the guidelines to interpret whether a project meets the community plan requirements.
Some 23 community plans have been approved in various parts of Hillsborough County. They are considered a vision for how people living in these areas want their communities to look.
Ruskin community activist Mariella Smith, who was involved in creating the Ruskin plan, was upset to learn recently that the guidelines for density and lot sizes were left out of the county’s comprehensive plan when the community plan was approved.
Having them in the comprehensive plan or the land development code is what gives them some teeth.
After hearing of the omission from Adam Gormly, county land-use attorney, Smith sought help last week from several county commissioners to get the issue resolved.
Fletcher came to the land-use meeting Thursday with a recommendation that the county commission approve an ordinance that would adopt the Ruskin standards as part of the land development code.
That ordinance will require two public hearings, tentatively set for April 24 and May 29. Meanwhile, commissioners said, any Ruskin rezoning requests that come to the county should be flagged and commissioners notified.
“I think the commission and county staff heard the citizens loud and clear,” Smith said after the meeting. “We brought up a lot of evidence of what the community meant. They understood that these guidelines were always intended to be used by the community.”