Plant City is undergoing a fundamental shift from our agricultural roots and in the words of Mayor Nathan Kilton, “Plant City is no longer a rural community.” Tomorrow’s future lies in solidifying our fiscal responsibility; underpinning that is a need to urbanize. Our new communities have increased City expenditures far beyond the residential taxbase. This means that “Plant City’s future will be in logistics,” according to City Manager Bill McDaniel, thus making industry and commercial/mixed-use more and more prevalent across our town. Unfortunately, this also means current and future residents can no longer trust the Plant City Imagine 2040 plan.
This week, dozens of rural neighbors pleaded their concerns of preserving agricultural lands to the City Commission, all of which fell on deaf ears. Vice Mayor Mary Thomas Mathis gave a cursory acknowledgement of rural turn out and then the Mayor clearly stated how he was going to vote, prior to calling for a motion. Subsequently the Vice Mayor made two motions and seconded the third, resulting in annexing, changing the land-use and rezoning over 250 acres of Ag land to industrial. Their decision places a seven-story warehouse (the size of City Furniture) in the back yards of rural residents and an additional four more five-story buildings in the same location. This is concerning because the Imagine 2040 Plan encouraged “infill” development, but our commissioners are not following their own model. As more and more developers procure Ag land across unincorporated Hillsborough County, City Commissioners are likely going to continue to do the same regardless of what the plan states.
Rural residents have common concerns that City Commissioners are dismissing– Flooding, Traffic, Natural Wildlife and Quiet Residential Lots. Our most important concern is flooding. Rural residents live in a 100yr floodplain, and commissioners have justified their decisions by stating that “flood plains were meant to flood.” Blinded by their arrogance, commissioners and City Staff fail to recall that a 100yr flood plain only has a 1% chance of flooding in any given year; it’s not meant to flood by new developmental runoff and outdated SFWMD models multiple times per year. The more they increase development on our outskirts, the more our rural communities will suffer from additional flooding due to poor decision-making by elected officials. Which now, as we all know, is not important because “Plant City is no longer a rural community.”