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Saturday, Nov 01, 2014
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County planners ask public for input on development priorities

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— Residents have already made their views known on how they would like Hillsborough County to look in the future, with more infill development and less sprawl, more transit choices and more neighborhoods close to job centers.

Now, the Hillsborough County Planning Commission is asking people to take a second survey, prioritizing their wishes. Planning for that future vision won’t be cheap and not every idea will get funded, so getting public input on priorities is pertinent, said Ray Chiaramonte, executive director of the Planning Commission.

“Most people don’t think the way long-range planners think,” he said. “This is to try to get them thinking about the long-term future and how today’s decisions will affect our lives and the lives of our children and grandchildren.

“We need to remind them that our grandparents planned the interstate system and it changed our whole life.”

The survey results will be used to finalize the Metropolitan Planning Organization’s 2040 transportation plan by fall and to update the comprehensive plans for unincorporated Hillsborough County, Tampa, Temple Terrace and Plant City — their blueprints for future growth — which will be completed in 2015.

The Planning Commission undertook the first survey in 2013. “Part One was a general vision we were trying to establish,” said Lynn Merenda, community planner and public engagement specialist for the Planning Commission. “More than 3,500 participated in the first part and over 90,000 comments or choices people made helped us to form a vision. Part Two is taking that initial vision and looking at what transportation investments are most important to people, as well as land-use policies for the county and for your neighborhood.”

As an incentive, the Planning Commission will reward those who take the survey by Aug. 25 with a free ticket to Florida’s Largest Home Show, which takes place Labor Day weekend at the Florida State Fairgrounds. Merenda said the home show coordinators donated the tickets. The survey must be completed by Sept. 1.

The survey is an easy way for more people to participate in the planning process, Chiaramonte said, but it is not the only way. Residents are still welcome to give input on the vision either through email or during public meetings.

“The online survey is one way to participate,” said Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe, who chairs the MPO. “It’s an opportunity. We need a thoughtful, meaningful exchange” and that includes attending meetings in person.

“Nothing has changed since the 1700s in that respect,” Sharpe said. “Town hall meetings and the ability of people to step up and speak” is still important. “People need to ask questions and exchange ideas.”

“From a land use perspective, people would like to see downtown being redeveloped, neighborhoods not being abandoned, rural areas more protected from development,” Chiaramonte said. “They understand the benefits of thoughtful growth.

“We are trying to make people make priority choices,” he said. “You can’t have everything unless you are willing to pay for it” and that includes road projects, expanded transit and shifts in job centers.

“We want to know what appeals to the majority of people,” Chiaramonte said. For some, it’s more mass transit, for others, its more and wider highways.

He said the Planning Commission is working closely with a policy leadership group made up of county and city officials who are trying to leverage transportation investments to support economic development and job creation.

The survey information will be shared with that group, since it is the elected officials that will ultimately decide how to fund and pay for various aspects of the future transportation plan, Chiaramonte said.

The draft of the final plan will be available online by mid-October. For more information or to offer input in addition to the survey, call (813) 272-5940 or email planhillsborough@plancom.org.

A list of scheduled community meetings during which options for the plans will be discussed can be found on the Planning Commission website, under Roadshow Calendar. Residents can also use that page to request a presentation.

The final public hearing on the 2040 transportation plan is scheduled to take place Nov. 12, 9 a.m., on the second floor Board of County Commissioners chambers.

Amendments to the comprehensive plans won’t be complete until 2015.

yhammett@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7127

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