CARROLLWOOD — Opponents of a proposed cemetery on St. Paul Catholic Church property plan to turn out in force Tuesday when Hillsborough County commissioners consider rezoning the 3 acres.
The 3,000-member Carrollwood Village Homeowners Association and several hundred residents who have signed petitions oppose the cemetery planned at the west end of the church property. They say a cemetery is out of character and inappropriate for their established neighborhood of narrow streets; and it would bring more traffic and lower property values.
Jim Butler, a lawyer who moved to Carrollwood Village from South Tampa 32 years ago, said the project would transform the upscale golf course neighborhood into “a cemetery community” with diminished property values.
Many homeowners have erected yard signs decrying the cemetery proposal. In a show of solidarity they will wear white to the commissioners’ 9 a.m. downtown land-use meeting. Butler is among opponents slated to make short presentations to include maps and Google Earth photographs showing the proximity of their homes to the church property at the northwest corner of Dale Mabry Highway and Stall Road.
Residents come to the seven-member county commission with, perhaps, one strike against them.
Last month, James Scarola, a Hillsborough land-use hearing officer, recommended approval of the rezoning.
That recommendation, opponents say, was due to a loophole.
Scarola recommended commissioners approve the rezoning, from RS-4, residential, single-family housing, to the less intense RS-3 designation.
“They’re calling it a down-zoning,” said Butler. “But the only reason they’re doing the down-zoning is RS-3 allows cemeteries,” while RS-4 does not.
Even with rezoning, the cemetery would need a conditional-use permit, but that would be an uphill battle for opponents, “a big hoop for us to jump through,” Butler said. “Once somebody gets the zoning, basically it’s rubber-stamped,” Butler said.
Frank Murphy, a spokesman for the Diocese of St. Petersburg, has said the cemetery would serve only members of St. Paul Parish, founded 50 years ago. Members prefer to be buried near the church, not the diocese cemetery in Clearwater, he said.
For 39 years, Ann Blank has lived on Stall Road, a block from what would be the cemetery entrance. She fears 50-vehicle funeral processions will exacerbate existing traffic problems on her two-lane residential road. Neighbors closer to the proposed cemetery would overlook 25-foot-high columbariums, she said.
Additionally, Blank, a veteran real estate agent, worries the project would hinder natural drainage between neighborhood lakes and retention ponds and that the cemetery ultimately could expand to include the property’s entire 6-acre nature preserve.
Diocese attorney Joseph DiVito said the church looked at other development options, from a day-care center to an adult living facility.
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