By LISA MACNEIL
The Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) unanimously voted down a request for rezoning by Roundstone Development to build an apartment complex on property bordering the northeast corner of Trenton Avenue and Forest Road. The Planning And Zoning Commission voted 5-0 to deny the petition. Following the planning and zoning decision, Roundstone submitted a formal request on July 12, 2021, to reduce the number of units from 80 to 72.
Bob Colvard, representing Roundstone Development showed an illustrated presentation of “The Villas at Nature Coast” proposal consisting of 5 two-story buildings with a clubhouse and pool. The original proposal was for “one bedroom/one bath units with approximately 750 square feet of living space, two-bedroom/two-bath units with approximately 950 square feet of living space and three-bedroom/two-bath units with approximately 1193 square feet of living space.”
County Planning Director Ron Pianta told the board that his department recommended approval of the Planned Development Project, based on the reduction of units and that the area is an appropriate location for multi-family housing. The property is currently zoned Commercial.
In addition to the 39 residents appearing at the meeting, the building department received numerous emails, with some containing photos and meticulously annotated aerial maps. According to Timber Pines resident Gail Dunleavy, an online petition yielded “over 300 signatures” opposing the development.
Colvard’s presentation included pictures of developments previously completed by Roundstone. “These are not cheap,” he said, to dispel the misconception that the intention is to install public or “Section 8” housing. Considered “workforce” or “affordable housing,” a one-bedroom apartment’s maximum rent is estimated at $1056.00, and a three-bedroom apartment is expected to rent for $1463.00. Different income levels for the three apartment types were too complicated to determine during the meeting, however, Colvard reports a family of four would need a combined income below $56,240.
He went on to show actual photos of a development taken after six years of occupancy to illustrate that buildings, landscaping, and amenities were still in good condition.
At the beginning of citizen’s comments, Commissioner Wayne Dukes posed the question, “For those people in the audience; if this gentleman said he decided he’s not going to build it here, he’s going to build it 20 miles from here, you’d be fine, right?” Audible responses suggested an affirmative answer to Dukes’ question, to which Dukes concluded, “Exactly.”
Joyce Gugino called Dukes’ question “loaded,” and explained that she and other residents of Timber Pines are not “stuck up,” but have valid concerns about the safety of children and teens playing in and around busy streets and shopping centers. “I would not want to see my grandkids playing in those parking lots … it’s dangerous. It’s dangerous as a driver, let alone kids getting off school busses…”
J. Boone Herberman Jr. mentioned before his comments that he holds a Bachelor’s of Engineering degree from Vanderbilt University. He showed a diagram of possible line of sight issues. The intended two-story buildings concern Timber Pines residents that their privacy could be impacted if their residences are in view of second-story residents on the intended property.
Herberman went on to say that more citizens may have attended this meeting if a “Spacebox Storage Coming Soon” sign was not still erected in front of the parcel. “Some people still believe that’s coming, and I find that quite objectionable.”
According to Herberman, the development site was a sewage treatment plant in the 80s. He said he found documentation of the plant’s existence, but could not find evidence or documentation of its cleanup, imploring the board to investigate to find out if the ground is suitable for residential development.
Josephine Charkovski also listed a series of academic credentials and stated she retired after 40 years as a mechanical engineer. She suggested that the developer consider the property listed for sale on the northeast side of Commercial way, slightly north of Cortez Blvd. The 12-acre parcel is already zoned for multifamily housing. Pressed for time, she added that Forest Road is “an alley” rather than a roadway.
Agreeing with Charkovski’s assessment of Forest Road, Joy Harring showed a map of the large area that is Timber Pines. Harring stated that 3,452 people live in Timber Pines and many residents use Forest Road for access to nearby commercial and retail establishments to avoid traveling on Commercial Way.
Joyce Sweeney is not convinced that Roundstone’s properties are not low-income housing. She stated that “Roundstone’s website shows that all 20 of their developments are low-income housing, tax-credit subsidized housing.”
She added that the intended complex would be similar to Bridgewater Club Apartments, which is income-restricted. Sweeney submitted a report showing that 9 arrests and incidents took place on the property in 2019 and 22 in 2020.
Other residents expressed concern that an increased population of children and teenagers would result in the kids trespassing on Timber Pines property to enjoy their amenities. This concern is further bolstered by the lack of recreational space or play areas in the site plan and no nearby parks.