The City Commission recently approved planning department efforts to rezone land annexed into the city, some more than a decade ago.
Clutching tight the dustpans of progress, Plant City planners recently succeeded in cleaning up lingering zoning issues on 11 parcels of land bookending some of the city’s east and west boundaries.
To the east, there were four parcels of land along Karen Drive annexed into the city between 2006 and 2010. Across the city, in its northwest reaches, were seven parcels on Boot Bay, Whitehorse and Bonnie roads annexed during 2005 and 2006. Though some of the parcels joined the city more than a decade ago, the land use and zoning designations retained Hillsborough County designations.
“Once you get annexed into the city you’re in the city limits but not automatically rezoned,” City Planner Mara Latorre said. “First you get annexed, but it is up to the property owner to initiate the process to rezone.”
Similar to love and marriage, first comes land use, then comes rezoning, then comes Mara with city-bound land that must comply with local zoning codes.
In planning, a land use category is a broad designation that indicates a general use like residential, commercial or industrial. The land use category gets established before the zoning designation, which is more detailed, outlining things like setbacks, height and parking requirements and how a building will appear on the land.
Often times, Planning Director Mark Hudson said, annexed lands are larger parcels which are going to be developed. In those cases, developers usually initiate the rezoning process and incur the costs associated with compliance in order to bring new developments into the city. However, these parcels were smaller, privately owned parcels of land that had existing structures. Parcels like these often come into the city to connect to city utilities amid failing well and septic tank issues, he said. However, there hadn’t been a need to rezone.
Now, as the city continues to expand, Latorre said planners are focusing on keeping things throughout the city consistent. Had the land use and zoning designations remained, the properties would have continued to adhere to Hillsborough County code, which could differ from Plant City’s code.
“This makes sure that it keeps things consistent within our city limits,” Latorre said. “We want to make sure whatever is happening in the city is consistent with whatever else is going on in the city.”
Without owners initiating the process, however, the financial burden of rezoning falls to the city. So, Hudson said, the planning department waits until there is a group of land that could be rezoned at the same time in order to save city money.
“We’re trying to be good stewards of tax dollars,” Hudson said. “We put them together for economy of scale.”
Under the new designations, any changes to the existing structures would have to comply with Plant City’s code, ensuring that as Plant City grows it retains the character approved by city leaders.
“It’s an ongoing effort to clean up some of these transition areas,” Latorre said.