After hearing a stream of complaints from residents about Hillsborough County’s proposed $8.25 million incentive package for the Brandon area development that might ultimately house a new Bass Pro Shops location, Commission Chairman Ken Hagan had to set the record straight.
“There have been no secret meetings with Bass Pro,” Hagan said during the Hillsborough Commission’s Feb. 6 meeting.
Residents and small business owners opposed to the incentive package came out in droves to Wednesday’s meeting, some driving from as far away as Lutz. They spoke during an open comment period in the morning and again during a public hearing on a proposed amendment to the developer’s land use agreement that would move up construction of several road projects.
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Many of those speakers accused the county – and Hagan specifically – of playing host to secret meetings to lure Bass Pro to the area.
“If Bass Pro wants to build a store in Hillsborough let them – without a single penney of sales tax money,” said resident Herbert Belcher during the commission’s morning session.
Belcher went on to implore the county to release information related to the ongoing negotiations with the project’s developers, I-75/Palm River Road and Florida Crossroad LTD. There have been “two years of secret negotiations,” he said.
“Mr. Hagan, I’m really disappointed to hear of your secret negotiations with our money in this project,” added Grace McComas.
Hagan addressed the allegations during a public hearing later in the afternoon related to a proposed amendment to the development agreement for the project. That agreement spells out the developer’s responsibilities in regard to road improvements. The amendment is meant to move up the time frame in which the road projects will be undertaken.
Under the agreement, the following constructions projects will be undertaken by the developer:
- Creating an extension of Palm River Road from its current terminus to Falkenburg Road
- Widening Falkenburg to six lanes from the Selmon Expressway to Palm River Road
- Adding signalization of the intersection of Falkenburg Road and Palm River Road/Delaney Lake Drive
The actual development includes 373,350 square feet of retail space, 360 dwelling units, a 125-room hotel, 125,000 square feet of office space and 125,000 square feet of medical office space. Bass Pro is one of the identified possible anchors.
A second public hearing on the proposal to amend the development agreement is set for Feb. 12 during the commission’s land use meeting, which starts at 9 a.m. at County Center, 601 E. Kennedy Blvd.
The issue of the incentive package that would reimburse the developer for the road improvements is set to go before the board during its Feb. 20 meeting.