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Politics

Big Box opponents file suit against county, developer

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Published:   |   Updated: November 21, 2013 at 10:20 PM

BRANDON — Bloomingdale residents are suing Hillsborough County and a developer about a recent “zoning bypass” that allows a big box store and apartments near the Bloomingdale Regional Library.

County officials and the developer, Red Cast Bloomingdale LLC, were served the lawsuit Wednesday.

Fred Brown, of CAN-DO, or Coordinated Active Neighborhoods for Development Organization, is listed as the plaintiff in the suit. He is president of CAN-DO and lives just north of the 43.5 acres slated for what widely is thought to be a Super Walmart and a three-story apartment complex.

The county approved a series of changes as to its land development code and zoning categories between 2002 and 2011 which allowed construction of a big box store on the property, the suit says.

Residents maintain they did not realize how the land-use changes would affect the specific site, or the eastern Hillsborough County community. The suit blames the county’s government for that lack of thorough understanding.

“They did that purposely, we believe, to give this developer what he wanted though the community didn’t want it,” said George Niemann, treasurer for CAN-DO. “That did not give us the benefit of being heard before a land-use officer and before the commission for approval.”

Bloomingdale residents say the land-use changes allow intense development that is too much for the area and only will erode an already horrible traffic situation.

More than 1,000 people have signed a petition opposing construction of a big box store, but county officials have not budged on their position, saying — on the advice of their attorney — there is nothing they can do to reverse the situation.

County Attorney Chip Fletcher said he is reviewing the suit, but plans to vigorously defend the county’s position.

Brown lives in Lithia Oaks and said everyone in his neighborhood will be affected adversely by the development, including having bright lights shining into their homes at night.

“And from a traffic standpoint, there is congestion, pollution and noise,” he said.

While the county has told members of CAN-DO that a lawsuit won’t prevent the site’s development, Brown said his group is leaving it up to a judge.

“I think we will prevail, when a judge gives this a good, hard look,” Niemann said.

According to the CAN-DO web site, the group’s argument is not “against development, this builder or with a potential retailer, such as a possible Walmart. Instead, our argument is against the heavy impact we feel that this development will bring to our area.”

Michael Salinero contributed to this report.

yhammett@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7127

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