When Oscar and Donnet Ferguson built their dream home in Mystic Oaks subdivision, nestled between orange groves, in unincorporated Hillsborough County in 2008, they were looking forward to the peace and quiet of country living.
That peace and quiet has been interrupted in the last 15 years thanks in part to disease that’s plagued citrus trees and created opportunities for developers to scoop up agricultural land for residential, commercial and industrial projects.
At Monday night’s City of Plant City commission meeting, commissioners adopted PC/CPA 22-09 Future Land Use Map Amendment to the Plant City Comprehensive Plan and, after a quasi-judicial public hearing, approved the rezoning of 67 acres from Hillsborough County Residential-1 (59.89 acres) and Plant City Commercial (7.25 acres) to Plant City Industrial. The property, owned by Griffin Investment Properties LTD., is located north of North Frontage Road, west of North Maryland Avenue, east of Procchi Street and south of East Sam Allen Road. The future land use will allow for up to 1.46 million square-feet of industrial use with the only access point on North Frontage Road.
“This project is in my literal backyard and I’m worried that when it’s constructed we’ll hear the sounds of tractor trailers all day and night,” said Donnet Ferguson.
Mystic Oaks resident Joe Distrito also attended the commission meeting to express his concerns about the project. “I’ve lived in Mystic Oaks for fifteen years and we have homes in our neighborhood valued at up to a million dollars,” he said. “The idea of having a bunch of warehouses going up in our backyard is going to be an eyesore and cause problems.”
Distrito and the Fergusons think the property would be suited for residential development, especially with the nearby hospital close to completion. “It would be a great place for doctors and nurses to live,” he said.
Planning and Zoning Coordinator Robyn Baker expressed concerns about the amendment’s incompatibility with the city’s comprehensive plan by rezoning from Residential-4 (the least intensive category) to Industrial (its most intensive category), the stress the project will place on roadways and the project’s depth, reaching the length of eight football fields north of North Frontage Road. “The comprehensive plan was a document we set up with guidance for staff to make decision,” she said. “It provides guidance for orderly growth, it provides stability and predictability.”
After Baker’s presentation and comments from residents, commissioners discussed the request.
Commissioner Dodson said the request and Baker’s comments emphasizes how badly the master plan needs an update. “The plan was last updated about a decade ago and what hasn’t changed is our assets, the fact our city is intersected by Interstate-4,” he said. “We’re in the business of city building and we have to understand the need to create jobs for it to survive and if you’re successful in doing that people will want to live here.”
Vice-mayor Michael Sparkman also supported the project. “I’d much prefer this project over the 753 apartments that were slated to go there,” he said.
After discussion, Commissioner Dodson moved to approve the motion. Both passed with a vote of four to one with Mayor Kilton abstaining due to a conflict of interest.
“The city commission weighed the benefit to the community against restrictions of the master plan,’ said City Manager Bill McDaniel. In the city there are roughly 7.6 jobs per household, a strong position on jobs. “From an economic standpoint that’s putting money into the community, people can get good jobs right here in Plant City and the tax base that these businesses bring in is beneficial to city government.”
The commission is discussing an update to the master plan.
To help protect residents, the project’s preliminary site plan shows four buildings situated around the perimeter of the property with the central area being used for semi-truck traffic. Buffering of nearby properties will be achieved with a berm, fencing and/or trees.
That’s not much comfort to the residents of Mystic Oaks.
“My husband has had two brain surgeries and I’m afraid for him and the noise this project will bring,” said Donnet Ferguson. “We wouldn’t have moved here if we knew this was going to happen.”