BLOOMINGDALE One thing we don’t lack for out here is so-called big-box stores. We’ve got multiple locations for Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club, Target, home repair stores, you name it. If it’s a sprawling retail outlet that attracts lots of traffic to an even larger parking lot, we put out the welcome mat here in Greater Brandon.
Well, except in Bloomingdale, where it appears another big-box store is on the way – but, most definitely, without a welcome mat. Some residents organized into a group called CAN-DO and are fighting plans for a 158,800-square foot retail complex next to the Bloomingdale Regional Library.
They say it will make an already congested area worse, but the county attorney told the Hillsborough County Commission earlier this week that it’s too late to stop the project. The commission may soon hear a dissenting opinion on that, since CAN-DO has hired an attorney to fight back.
The issue points to a larger problem: Brandon’s woeful lack of representation on the commission.
Al Higginbotham is the only commissioner from the seven-member body who lives east of Interstate 75; he lives in Cork, near Plant City. It’s just a fact that someone from another part of the county doesn’t have a full appreciation for the joy Lithia-Pinecrest Road or Bloomingdale Avenue can bring during rush hour.
If you’re not here to experience the daily bumper-to-bumper combat of Brandon Boulevard, you may wonder how adding a large business with the potential to create more retail jobs is a bad thing. Or why issuing permits to build thousands of new homes before we’ve adequately reduced the number of currently vacant ones might cause issues.
“If the Greater Brandon area incorporated as a city, it would be the fifth-largest city in the state of Florida,” said Mark Nash, who grew in Brandon in the 1960s and unsuccessfully challenged Higginbotham’s District 4 commission seat last year. “We have big-city problems being addressed by county commissioners who don’t live here.”
Those of us who do live here understand the issues, starting with growth that went non-stop until it was out of control. Not all that many years ago, Bloomingdale was basically a bunch of orange groves and the like. That was before developers started building like crazy and people started moving in.
“We saw what results when you have an attitude of ‘let’s drop in a thousand homes now and fix the roads later,’” Nash said.
We’re up to about 200,000 people now in the area, but we can’t get one stinking seat on the county commission?
“You drive up to every intersection here and it’s all the same,” Nash said. “There’s a pharmacy store, maybe a grocery store or something, and it’s all so bland. There’s too much sameness. Why haven’t things changed?
“We’ve gotten whatever the county says we get. This side of the county has been the red-headed stepchild of county government forever. The people have been anesthetized.”
At least they didn’t have to go far for the anesthesia. There’s a drug store at almost every intersection.