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Planners Back Florida RV Resort Proposal

April 15, 2008 by   - () Leave a Comment

Over the objections of residents and conservationists, an upscale recreational vehicle and camping resort proposed for the Aripeka, Fla., area got the backing of the Planning and Zoning Commission on Monday (April 14).
The 24.5-acre parcel is envisioned as a high-end resort with 100 spaces for recreational vehicles, a tent camping area, a general store with gas pumps, a recreation hall and a swimming pool, according to Tampabay.com, St. Petersburg.
The resort is a longtime dream of developer Gary Grubbs, Ethel Hammer told planning and zoning commissioners.
“He wanted something rural in character. He wanted something that would be compatible with the environment, and he wanted something compatible with the surrounding neighborhood,” said Hammer of Engelhardt, Hammer and Associates.
The property is adjacent to the Weeki Wachee Preserve and is on the way to a nearby Gulf of Mexico beach. Visitors could enjoy nature. Beachgoers would have another place to pick up picnic supplies, bait or gasoline, Hammer said.
But residents of the area were not interested in the project.
They argued they had plenty of gas stations and convenience stores. They said it would dump more traffic onto the curving two-lane roads, negatively affect the abundant wildlife in the area and threaten their peaceful neighborhoods.
The property would be vulnerable in a storm, and fuel tanks and recreational vehicles could foul the site, local resident Richard Acreman warned. The project “is going to have a direct negative effect on this preserve,” he said.
“There are many, many reasons why we should not approve this development,” said area resident Linda Prescott. Since Grubbs also has plans for another major development to the south in Pasco County, Prescott suggested the owner might want to donate this property for conservation.
The project planned is wrong for the location, argued Leslie Neumann of the Gulf Coast Conservancy.
“Gary Grubbs might have a dream to share nature with the people,” she said, “but the truth of the matter is that once he’s done with these two things, there won’t be any nature to share with people.”
Hammer argued that the resort is meant to be unique and that only a rural site like the one up for rezoning would fill the bill. She said that there was plenty of capacity on the roadways for the low-impact development and noted that storm concerns were not an issue because the property was higher than some surrounding sites.
“We felt like this would be the least-intense use of the property,” said Buddy Selph, who was also representing the developer, Dial One LLC and Branford Investments LLC.
Commissioner Robert Widmar suggested that since the county had received 29 letters objecting to the project, the developer might want to schedule a community meeting to “make nice-nice some way.”
Commissioners also questioned how the park would handle storm evacuations since the surrounding area can flood. Interim emergency management director Mark Tobert assured commissioners that the coastal areas are the first to be asked to evacuate if a storm or storm surge is expected. The park would be expected to shut down in such a case.
The planning staff also assured the commission that the project would have to face all the same permitting requirements as any other project that might have some effect on wetlands. And the developer would have to meet all of the county requirements, including requirements to build up or flood-proof any permanent structures in that area.
Commissioner Kenneth Smith said he didn’t see how the commission could stand in the way of something the developer could legally do on the site.
Only Chairwoman Anna Liisa Covell voted against the project, saying, “We’re just asking for trouble if we approve this.”
While she said she knew something more intense could go on that site legally, “I think it’s pushing to the limit using this property as this.”
County commissioners will take up the issue at their next land use meeting May 14.

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