Denise Layne

Citation
Denise Layne

Material Information

Title:
Denise Layne
Series Title:
West Central Florida land use oral history project
Creator:
Layne, Denise, 1955-
Mansfield, Bill
University of South Florida Libraries -- Florida Studies Center. -- Oral History Program
University of South Florida -- Tampa Library
Place of Publication:
Tampa, Fla
Publisher:
University of South Florida Tampa Library
Publication Date:
Language:
English
Physical Description:
1 sound file ( 83 min.) : digital, MPEG4 file + ;

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
Land use ( lcsh )
Regional planning -- Citizen participation -- Florida -- Hillsborough County ( lcsh )
City planning -- Citizen participation -- Florida -- Lutz ( lcsh )
Genre:
Oral history. ( local )
Online audio. ( local )
interview ( marcgt )
Oral history ( local )
Online audio ( local )

Notes

Summary:
Denise Layne, president of the Lutz Civic Association and executive director of the Coalition 4 Responsible Growth, talks about managing rural development. She discusses the history of the Lutz Civic Association, the Coalition 4 Responsible Growth, rural development in Lutz, the politics of the Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners, the building of a high school in Lutz, the Dale Mabry corridor plan, lobbying the Florida Congress, and her experiences bringing groups of developers and activists together. The interview ends with a discussion of private interests dominating the political process, which Ms. Layne feels is in part due to poor public education for the voting public.
Venue:
Interview conducted June 25, 2007, in Lutz, Fla.
System Details:
Mode of access: World Wide Web.
Statement of Responsibility:
interviewed by William Mansfield.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of South Florida Library
Holding Location:
University of South Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
028592328 ( ALEPH )
182555539 ( OCLC )
W34-00004 ( USFLDC DOI )
w34.4 ( USFLDC Handle )

Postcard Information

Format:
Audio

Downloads

This item has the following downloads:


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Denise Layne, president of the Lutz Civic Association and executive director of the Coalition 4 Responsible Growth, talks about managing rural development. She discusses the history of the Lutz Civic Association, the Coalition 4 Responsible Growth, rural development in Lutz, the politics of the Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners, the building of a high school in Lutz, the Dale Mabry corridor plan, lobbying the Florida Congress, and her experiences bringing groups of developers and activists together. The interview ends with a discussion of private interests dominating the political process, which Ms. Layne feels is in part due to poor public education for the voting public.
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text William Mansfield: We always put a label on the disc by saying: This is Bill Mansfield, from the Patel Center for Global Solutions talking with Ms. Denise Layne here in the Lutz Library on June 25, 2007. Ms. Layne we always get people to start out by having them state their name and telling us when they were born and where they were born. So let her go.
1
00:00:24.1
Denise Layne: My name is Denise Donna Layne. L-a-y-n-e. I was born February 25, 1955, in Chicago, Illinois.
2
00:00:31.4
WM: Okay. When did you come to Lutz?
3
00:00:37.6
DL: I moved to Florida in seventy-four [1974], right out of high school. I decided Detroit is where I ended up, for my youth. I decided there was nothing for me in Detroit. I came down here for vacation and never went back. That was in Cocoa Beach. Ended up in Tampa in seventy-six [1976]. Ive been living in Lutz since December 1978, thats almost thirty years, my friend.
4
00:01:5.7
WM: Okay. What brought you here, but I guess you saw Florida as a
5
00:01:14.2
DL: Vacation, and wasnt Detroit. (laughs) Think of where I came from.
6
00:01:18.8
WM: I hear that. What brought you to Lutz, in particular?
7
00:01:23.0
DL: I had gotten married in 1976, to my first husband, in Wildwood [Florida], believe it or not. I had lived in Wildwood for a couple of years, working at Sumter Correctional Institution for a year and a half. We got married and his roots were in Tampa, so in the summer of seventy-six [1976] we moved to Tampa and by the fall of seventy-six [1976] he was back in Wildwood. Id kicked him out. I had to get on with my life. I met my now husband, weve been married thirty years. In seventy-six [1976] and married in seventy-eight [1978]. So, my first home, my first real marriage, the other one didnt count, all took place in seventy-eight [1978].
8
00:02:1.6
WM: So your current husband, thats what brought you to Lutz?
9
00:02:7.9
DL: I worked for a homebuilder, actually, one of the jobs, as I was working my way through my life. I started working for (inaudible) Homes. I was the vice-president of the custom home building company. One of the guys died. The other one, John Westfall is still around. Hes still working in Lutz, as a matter of fact I hadnt seen him in twenty-five years and ran into him two years ago at a project he was doing in Lutz. It was like home-week.
10
00:02:33.5
Because we owned the subdivision I lived in. We were the developers and homebuilders in that. There were only thirteen little lots, out there in Lutz. I bought one of the lots and designed the home, built the home and helped everybody on my street design and interior decorate all of their homes to, working for a homebuilder. So, yes, I do have the construction side and developer side knowledge. Thats what I did thirty years ago. And sold real estate, as a matter of fact as well.
11
00:03:3.7
WM: But your development was here in Lutz? Well I was going to ask: What was Lutz like when you first came here?
12
00:03:15.9
DL: Orange trees as far as you could see. I remember the orange blossoms. For years I just looked forward to the orange blossom season. I think there are maybe two or three little orchards left in Lutz, which is very sad, very, very sad. The last time I can remember Lutz looking like the real Lutz was about twenty-five years ago. The only place like that in the state now is around Lake Wales; where you just see nothing but orange groves everywherethe true growing stuff.
13
00:03:47.4
Lutz still has its semi-rural character. I dare anybody that lives out here or moves out here, I dare them to say that its still semi-rural. Im not saying that its a 100 percent rural, never did, but that is one thing, that as a community, for yearsfor decadesto maintain that character, that rural, semi-rural character; the small town feeling, the feeling of belonging to a community. Lutz is very lucky because it has a downtown that you can point to. Its not the prettiest in the world, but we have a downtown, we have a focus. Youre sitting in the center of what everybody knows to be the core of Lutz. So that helps because it gave off a physical as well as a community identity. So, now you know what Ive been preserving for thirty years, all my time here.
14
00:04:40.0
WM: Now when you say that you want to preserve the rural, or the small town feeling of Lutz, describe what that means. How would you define that?
15
00:04:50.1
DL: The first thing anybody will tell youwere actually jumping aheadbecause if you see how I went through this, through community planning, through all the different land use things that we have done. People say that keeping open natural green space is top priority in Lutz. Read our plan; read anything about Lutz and within the first paragraph you will see that. Open space, not cookie-cutter grid-like streets. Yes in our downtown. That makes sense when you want higher density. But when were truly trying to protect our natural areas we need lowed density.
16
00:05:33.0
We had to compromise on one-acre lots. Thats not the optimum in the best land planning. I will be the first to admit it. But this community has developed that way over a 100 years and all we did was to continue its pattern of development. Would I recommend one-acre lots all over the county? No! Absolutely not! But we have a 100-year history of showing that is the direction to go in and thats where we continued. What we wanted was one house to five-acres, of course that wasnt going to fly so we had to compromise on the one acre.
17
00:06:1.8
WM: Okay. So youve been working to maintain the rural, small-town feel. The green open space, thats part of the rural sense but what about like
18
00:06:19.9
DL: Channeling development in the areas that we want developed, not just everything up for grabs. Its not that were telling anybody that they cant develop their land. There is a certain quality and quantity of development that needs to be planned in different areas. Develop your property to what it is zoned. Thats what property rights are all about. Its the zoning on your property. Youre allowed to use your property as zoned. What the development community has sold to our elected officials the highest and best use. We are entitled to the higher denser commercial. That is not the property rights law. That is not the Bert Harris Act. It is the zoning you now have on your property.
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00:07:0.4
WM: The what act?
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00:07:1.4
DL: Bert Harris Act. That is the quote, Property Rights Law! Ive been playing with that in Tallahassee for three or four years now.
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00:07:9.8
WM: Youve given me a sense of your understanding of rural. What about your sense of community, how would you define that?
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00:07:21.2
DL: Oh its the pulling together, like we have seen with our markets in the park with our governor. I mean our civic association has been instrumental for years pulling our community together in a fun fundraising event. It gets a lot of publicity. It raises thousands and thousands of dollars 100 percent of it goes back into the community.
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00:07:42.3
So that brings people together. We created our train depot out here instead of always being known as organization fighting development. We dont fight development. Now, we work with developers in our community to help them see the vision, rather than the negative energy that always seems to go out from different groups. Because they are fighting for their homesteads and their lives, it seams like. We decided to start doing positive things, so the governor thing has been out there in front.
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00:08:12.8
We decided that the communitywe asked the community, We want to bring back one of the icons that made this downtown a focal point years ago. What do you want?
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00:08:48.0
So thats how. You get the people engaged. You let them buy in to their community. Then when you have problems and issues with in the communitythey rallied for the positive. Thats part of their whole heritage now. They helped with the protection and they helped with getting the people alive and motivated to help defend the community.
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00:09:8.7
WM: Okay. You asked me to ask you how you got started in this. So let her go. You said it started with a knock on the door?
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00:09:20.2
DL: It started in 1995, in the fall; I cant remember what month exactly. But I got a knock on my door asking me to sign a petition to stop the Lutz High School on Mack Smith Road. Its a two-lane road. There was no water or sewage out there and they were about to build something that was going to have 3,000 students in it. And just from a pure planning, land-use perspective, I didnt know that much back then, but I knew a school of that size was not going to fit on a two lane road with absolutely no infrastructure. So I said, Sure Ill sign your petition. Oh, by the way Denise, were having a meeting of concerned citizens at my house on such and such a date. Come by if you want. Thats all she wrote.
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00:10:2.7
That group was Denise Lasher, Denise Layne, Steve (inaudible) Ron (inaudible), Caroline Meaker. And when we started that initiative and it wasnt to stopwe actually tried to stop it there, yes. But we also were working behind the scene at the school board, to find another site. If that one didnt workwe wanted the high school in the community; they just kept trying to put it on two lane roads where it wasnt going to work. The politics back then, they just dug in. We said, fine, well just go in for the kill then. We actually worked and looked at nineteen sites in the community. So people dont realize that. They look at the Civic Association as killing the Lutz High School.
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00:10:49.7
We worked our butt off for over a year, trying to find another site. The politics would not listen, the politics of downtown. Thats all Im going to say. Six months after we started that initiative, the Lutz Civic Association legally was alive, but technically we had not had a meeting or anything in three years. So it was still a corporation and it was still active but there were really no people in it.
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00:11:15.0
Caroline Meaker had been keeping it alive for the three years, so it would not go defunct. Caroline and I played hand-bells at St. Marys Choir together, okay and she looked at me and said, Weve got to re-activate the Civic Association. Ive been there. Ive done that. Ill help you get it started. But we need you out in front doing it. Weve got to get it going and get the community rallying behind the school issue. Four hundred people showed up for the first meeting of the Civic Association to re-activate it. That night I was nominated as president.
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Of course we declined, we had to do it right. Get the board, get everything back in place. And then do it legally. But I ended up president, the first president after they went to sleep I say in ninety-six [1996] and then I spent nine years as president. Now, Im on my third year, still with the Civic Association, but now as their land-use liaison now; because I just started land use and growth management non-profit. I wanted to be part of protecting my community but I didnt want any perceived conflict on board issues. So I just got off all of the boards and stuff. Now Im just the executive-director of the Coalition for Responsible Growth.
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00:12:32.2
WM: Tell me about the activities of the Lutz Civic Association, to protect and preserve Lutz.
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DL: What we found was once we got past the school issue, which took two or three years, but during that time, now all of a sudden there was some place for people to go when re-zonings were happening in the community. That had stopped, so every little neighborhood was on its own, for a while.
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00:12:59.5
The very first rezoning I did was mini-warehouseswe didbut it was the first I was personally involved in to this extent. Mini warehouses on [US Highway] 41, right in our downtown, what we considered our business downtown, which is next to where the McDonalds is down here okay? And some land there and they wanted to put mini warehouses. Well, were tying to re-build a vibrant downtown and we got this gumba trying to put dead-space in the middle of our downtown. Mini warehouses dont create a lot of social activity. So we were trying to dissuade him from that and work with us on another land use. Obviously communication wasnt what it should have been, back then. He went forward with the re-zoning. We won. It killed his rezoning.
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00:13:53.1
His name is Cliff Livingston. He now sits on my board of directors of Coalition for Responsible Growth. He is not an enemy, he is a friend. He has built that whole development up there, behind the McDonalds. All that in there is Cliffs. And he understands, as most developers I have found, the true ones really want a win-win situation. They want to enhance the community. They want to make money for their clients and theyre willing to work with the community to create a good project. Its a handful of very, very large, very greedy, overpowering development interests that, right now, seem to be controlling to the point that it is hurting us are elected officials in this county.
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WM: Okay, if you dont mind tell me
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DL: You keep bringing me back.
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WM: You all came together to fight the school?
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DL: Weve become the watchdogs for the community, ever since we reformed ourselves. Every re-zoning we now get public notice of everything that goes on within our borders and with a mile around our borders, believe it or not. Except for Pasco, they dont play the game. Weve just done that and weve gone from very negative, We dont like it. We dont like it get out of my backyard. Get out of Lutz. No development.
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00:15:18.1
Were not no growth. Were quality. Ive been part of our Lutz Community plan, developing the code, part of the Northeast Plan, the Citrus Park Plan, Ruskins Plan, Ive worked on Thonotosassa. Ive sat on a lot of differentto see the different dynamics of communities. Theyre all different. Every one of them, Bill, even thought there are similarities in rural character; the core of each community has its own unique character. Thats something that downtown just doesnt seem to understand. Our entire code and comp plan, until we got community plans, was all one-size-fits-all. One code! Right now we still have mostly that. One code fits every little issue in the county. Well, Im sorry. Whats in Lutz is not the same as Ruskin, which is not the same in Town and Country, which is not for sure Brandon. Okay, we do have Brandon out there. So we have become like the watchdogs. And then we learned
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00:16:21.9
I would say 90 percent of the time, after ten years, the development community will call me on the phone, Dee were coming into Lutz. We have a project we want to talk to you about. We want to make sure we are seeing the same vision in the community plan, the same code that you are. We dont want to fight with you guys, we want to work with you. And I can tell you that maybe three times in the last five years have we actually had to stand opposed entirely to a project. Were usually there saying, We support 99 percent of this project. There is one issue youve got to take care of. And we lay out what that issue is. Most of the time it gets resolved, most of the time it does happen.
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00:17:2.5
So weve taken a very negativenow of course the public out there still sees development as running rampant, which is funny. The normal Lutz guy that came out here to live in the rural and get away from the hubbub of downtown now wants to slam the door behind them. I felt that way ten years ago. You know? Youre here, you want it, its pretty, its staying nice. You dont want any more. Leave it alone! Leave it alone!
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00:17:26.4
Its called progress. And we either channel the direction of the progress or we take what were given. And Im not, and our association is not willing to take what we get. We are shaping the future of our community. Thats why weve been very instrumental to do that. Some will say were no-growth. Fine, thats opinion. If you dont understand who and what were doing and how many hours we spend. At least two days a week were in breakfast meetings, we pay for our own breakfasts, with developers on issues trying to doand you dont hear about it, you dont read about it. Newspapers dont pick up on the good successful things we do. Thats not good news, they want us fighting and rabid.
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So you only hear the fighting and rabid side of Denise Layne most of the time. You dont understand that for every hour Im being rabid Ive spent twenty working behind the scenes to make a better community and actually done a very positive and productive thing. Im a very big optimist. I do not believe that it is all gloom and doom. Weve got a very bad political situation in this county right now. And we, the stupid voters, have let it happen. This is nobodys fault but our own. We get too caught up in our lives. We do not pay attention to who and what were electing. We go by pure advertising and name recognition. Were now paying dearly, the price of that.
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WM: We could talk about that for a long time. But wed better stick to land use.
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DL: Well the land use is now a problem with our BOCC. The developers have got a strong hold on them. We cannot
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00:19:1.6
WM: BOCC stands for?
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DL: Our County Commission, Hillsborough County Commission. They have succeeded with this new board, of getting a solid block of four votes always.
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WM: But BOCC stands for?
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DL: Board of County Commissioners.
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WM: Okay. Thank you.
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DL: Im sorry. Trust me, Ill be using acronyms, stop me, because Im used to talking like that.
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WM: Okay. Ill try to get you to clarify these things.
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DL: Please, please. Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners, okay.
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WM: Well lets get back to the high school thing.
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DL: Okay.
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WM: They wanted to put this high school on a place that wasnt suitable for it. So you all organized to oppose it and you
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00:19:41.6
DL: Oppose it and look for a new site. It was the opposition that the paper always picked up on. They werent reporting that we were spending hours looking at sites and walking the fields with the school staff. Okay?
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00:19:53.5
What ultimately ended up happening is that Denise Lasher, out of her own pocket, hired an attorney, Ted Taub and had to sue the school board to stop them from there. Politically, what happened at that point was, the schoolhaving a pot of money, ready to go in Lutz, because of spending two years fighting with the community, trying to cram something down our throats that did not fit. Town and Country was also second on the list to get a school. They switched the priority from Lutz to Town and Country and got their school built first.
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00:20:27.0
Its taken them ten years. They were slapping us, thats exactly what happened. All right you can sit on your high school. They are now coming back at us with a high school on Lutz Lake Fern [Road]. The difference between that on a two-lane roadI mean, everybody is going, Whats the difference? Youre still letting them put a high school on a two-lane road? Lutz Lake Fern is two lanes. The difference is we spent two and a half years now as a community. The Civic Association mediated between the School Board, the Turn Pike, all of the homeowners associations in the area, the county. Two and a half years of meetings where we coordinatedokay, you want the high school? The roads have to go in. The Interstate has to open. This all has to be timed and it all better work together. Its called concurrency. And were still working on that now
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00:21:15.5
You see the turnpike, we lobbied, finally got the money for the turnpike. The countys doing studies on the road. The school is delayed a year, but its going to work better to coincide with openings of things. We will now have the infrastructures out there. We worked together and we brought the school in. Had the school district not dug-in, back in ninety-five [1995] and worked with us, like they, finally are working now, we would have had a high school on Lutz already.
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WM: Do you have any idea why they dug-in and
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DL: Politics. One word: Politics.
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WM: Could you explain that a little bit more?
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DL: The political will of where the district wanted to put schools, versus where the community wanted. The school district is one of the last bureaucracies. Mary Ellen (inaudible) has taken us a long way in the right direction. A long, long way!
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00:22:51.2
If you now see our governor forced the school district to plan its school with the Comp Plan with the community. We passed that law in 2005, the Growth Management Act. So the schools now are being forced to plan, which is what we need. You cant justyou cant have the community saying We want this area rural. We dont want any big business. We dont want Home Depot. We just want little neighborhood things, here and here. Then you throw 3,000 kids in and change the whole character of the area.
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00:23:21.4
See thats whatthe knowledge and the recognition now that these schools have the impact that they have, is finally being acknowledged. They would not acknowledge that back then. So, its come a long way. I mean we took a beating doing it, but the rest of the county is benefiting from the beating we took and the laws we had to change to get us there. Not that they are doing a great job, but we are getting better.
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WM: I think it is to you alls credit that you stood together and opposed.
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DL: It wasnt just the Civic Association. This was a huge community event. I meanyou know how people are: they like to label. We organized it, yes. But when we had to show up to community meetings, we had to go before the district, when we had to talk to the commission, it wasnt the Lutz Civic Association, sitting there alone. There were two hundred people in the room. (phone rings) Im sorry I should shut it off.
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00:24:17.0
WM: Thats okay.
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00:24:21.0
DL: Shut that off a minute, can you? Its going to go rabid over the CPC. Let me shut this thing offthats why theyre calling. All right, what are you doing Denise? All tell you.
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00:24:29.1
WM: But what you did to oppose the school is you just showed up at the meetings and voiced you opposition and had the support of the entire communityor a large portion of the community?
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00:24:41.2
DL: Oh, it was letter-writing campaigns. It was showing up for meetings. It was talking to the attorney. It was rallying groups. It was speaking to different organizations and groups and making them understand what the issues were. This isnt aboutand politically the district tried to lay this out as a political issue. Its You people dont want a school in Lutz! These people are anti-school, anti-children! My God!
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00:25:5.1
We had to go out and say, No were not. We have kids in these schools. We have grandkids in these schools. We want the school in Lutz. But we are not going to sacrifice the entire eastern, rural section of Lutz to accommodate a school. Put it on Highway 41. Put it on one of our four-lane. Put it on Dale Mabry. We have Gaither [High School]. People forget that when they built Gaither High School that was called Lutzs High School. We lost our high school just that politically quick. We went from losing one high school into, We hate high schools.
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00:25:39.3
So the bottom line was, it wasnt just fighting on one thing. Its email activity, letter writing, meeting with the commissioners, meeting with the district, meeting with the School Board. Attorneys are involved, meetings with real estate people, looking at sites. Going back to the school board telling them, Your staff wont listen to us. Were trying to do and they just keep throwing it off to the side!
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00:26:1.9
WM: Sounds like it was a frustrating experience, but ultimately a successful one.
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DL: Yes.
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WM: So you mentioned the mini-warehouses, is that something that followed closely on the school issue?
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00:26:20.3
DL: It had nothing to do with it, but it happened like four months after the school issue. Once the civic association kicked back into life, Here come the re-zonings honey! They just started, one after another.
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00:26:29.5
And at first, all we were doingbecause we were new, were waking up, were learning everything was a fighta fighta fight. I spent a year and anybody who knows me knows I do not like that kind of negative energy. I have a lot of energy. Ive got a lot of things I will do. I do not want it negative. I want it positive. So I just said, I dont know about you guys, but Im going to start sitting down with these developers before they file these things. If they will let us talk to them before they file we can avoid all kinds of negative headaches.
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00:27:0.5
It took a couplethree years, but we got there. I mean if youre known as a group that is willing to talk, maybe not always agree, but not be ugly. Ive heard a lot of other communities have problems with developers making promises and then breaking themtheyve never done that to me. There is not one guy that has looked me in the face and toldexcuse me, that I work with. There are a couple that have flat lied to my face. I dont work with them any more. Why I am I going to waste time getting a bunch of promises I know will not be kept? Theyve already proven that they will not keep, so we just do what we got to do. But 90 percent seriously is very positive and we can work with them. And they do call.
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WM: Okay. SoI ask you this question because Im trying to get a better understanding of the whole process. But the successful organization to protect Lutz from this unplanned school energized the community to continue to protect Lutz from unplanned, unwarranted development?
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DL: Its not so much unplanned, its just that we know who and what we are. When you ask, What is that character? Its something that we all can tell you we have. We cant always verbalize it well. But we know we like the green space. We know we love to see the eagles and the ospreys flying. We have deer in our back yard. We dont want to lose that.
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So, over the yearswe were the first community plan. We were the first rural community plan in the state, Lutz and Keystone, at the same time. Im proud of that. Now is it great? Its way better than just the comp plan. Which is one size fits all. It helps guide the development community, on our character and vision. If you dont have a copy of our Lutz Community plan I can tell you where to go online to look for it. Actually its under the planning commission Web site. Go to Hillsborough and then youll see Lutz in there. When you goyou will read that these people are clearly telling, they want the open space. They want the nature. They want the eco systems kept intact. They dont want their wetlands trashed.
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That brings me to my second part of my growth management. The environment is very much part of growth management. And when you have sixty-eight lakes in Lutz. And all the wetland systems and the creek systems. And were part of what flows into Hillsborough River. What I had to do is take a crash course on the environment, is what I had to do, in a very short of time. Over the years I keep learning and knowing more and more and more. But it is an integral part of our development now. The one thing we cant get anybody to really do is to say, We know where we want to protect our lands. Off-limits. They will not put a line around those lands and say, You cannot develop inside. They wont do it, state or local.
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We all know where they are, but they will not politically come out and say, Off-limits. So we have to keep fighting their battles, because we do not have a political will downtown to do very simple things that would make it so clear, we wouldnt have these battles. I do believe government, as a whole really enjoys keeping the pot riled, because they then get to make the decisions. And they get to spin the decisions, how they choose. Thats your politics.
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WM: Okay.
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DL: Back to them again? (laughs)
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WM: Tell me about the mini-warehouse issue. You mentioned that this guy wanted to put the mini-warehouses downtown.
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DL: In downtown.
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WM: That would essentially create a dead-zone.
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DL: A dead activity zone, yeah.
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WM: So walk me though the process of; he comes up with the proposal and you all
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DL: No we came up with it. He had an attorney. Her name is Judy James. She came in there slapped it down, refused to meet with us and never told him that we wanted to meet with him. We went to the re-zoning. There were no discussions. There was nothing. We had to fight it flat out kill it. Because his attorney wouldnt put us together. After he got his butt kicked, Cliff [Livingston] looked at me and says, Why didnt we sit down and talk about this? I said, We tried. We asked your attorney. She didnt tell you? What do you think about those ethics?
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Anyway, thats water over the dam. But Im still dealing with old Judy James on some issues. I mean, shes the homebuilders corporate attorney, if that tells you anything. Judy James is the homebuilders attorney, for the organization. And she happened to be Cliffs attorney at that time. And listen, shes done some beautiful projects. Shes a bulldog for the development community. Butshe didnt do her client justice, in my opinion. And ever since then Cliff realized, I can talk to these people. So he looked at us, afterwards and goes, If you dont want mini-warehouses, what do you want? Will you have lunch with me? Can we talk about the uses that will fit? You see the product.
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WM: So he had this land that he wanted to develop and you all suggested some other
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DL: Listen, our community plan will let you do this and this and this. Actually, back then we didnt have the community plan, but we knew it was coming. We knew the community plans were going to start. We had told himthe communityI can tell you this is part of our downtown we know were going to want to build it as an activity center. Not an un-activity center.
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The problem that Cliff had was that the property he has is crossed by a railroad. As soon as you cross railroad tracks, the property isnt considered as desirable for a lot of tenants because of safety issues. They got to cross railroad tracksjust whatever. So he decided on a lot of little office buildings. And every one of those people they buy their little building and he keeps it up. Hes about to add more into it.
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WM: So it worked out for him?
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DL: Something that the community needed. Something for him. Nobody complained about those. Wellthe people who dont want any growth. Anytime they see development, they dont want it. But hes done a very nice job, a quality job. And hes got quality tenants in there too, which is key. I mean you can build a quality thing and put a bunch of trashy tenants in there and thats not going to help your community.
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WM: Right.
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DL: He filled needs for the community. And were still on that. We want restaurants. We cannot get restaurants downtown very easily, because of the marketing. You look at a restaurant X number of rooftops in a three-mile radius. Well, youre in rural downtown Lutz. One house to the acre. Youre never going to hit the numbers, ever. What they dont take into consideration is a six-lane highway running though the community that brings an enormous amount of traffic. They dont even look at that. Beef OBradys has been there now for five years. Very successful. We need restaurants. I put the word out.
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Two yeas ago Lutz Civicthree yearshosted a meeting. We brought the community and the development community together in one big meeting and said, Okay developers, get your pad and pencil out. Heres what the community wants you to develop. Heres what we want! Heres what we need! And, God bless them, they went out for a year and a half and tried. But because of the marketing stuff I was talking about, you cant get Applebees. They play pure market numbers. They dont play any other game. Its a very tight game. Were still working on it. Were not going to give up. Well have some more restaurants here sooner or later.
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WM: Tell me about the development community. Who are they?
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DL: Anyone from land-use attorneys to planners to land owners to homebuilders. I mean its the whole=anybody having to do with development. I know a lot of people right now are looking at all development industry as black hats. Ive never seen that and I dont agree with that. Theyre not all black hats. Ive got some beautiful hats sitting on my board. Are there some black hats out there? Oh yeah! Theyre very powerful, a lot of money. Theyre the big guys and theyre the ones who get to the elected officials. Look at the campaign contributions. Look at whats going on.
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But for the most part, they just have clients that want to develop their property. They know theyve got to play by the rules. They know theyve got to play and they have found, in certain communities they can come where you can talk to and Lutz is one of them. And if we hate it and tell you No! enter at your own risk buddy! You already know where we are coming from. Most of the time its: well you cant do this or that or this. Try this, come back try this, do this. It either works or it doesnt. If it doesnt work for them, financially, they go away. If it does work for them, we have success. So what were doing, piece by piece, is building a quality community. Look at Dale Mabry from County Line Road to Van Dyke Road. Then look at it from Van Dyke south.
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WM: Since we cant look at it with the tape recorder why dont you describe it?
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DL: What you will see is green open space, very light land uses along Dale Mabry and Lutz. Because we have a Dale Mabry Corridor Plan, on top of our Lutz Community Plan. We said on Dale Mabry, you have three intersections that we need community services in. Thats where you put them. Pure and simple, plain and simplethats where they go. And for twenty-five years, thats whered they go. Weve built a public shopping center that was in our commercial node. Have other things been developed out of those three nodes, along that? Yes. Swimming pool instruction classes, nurseries, plant nurseries, very low offices, a bank. Low key, low impact, which can be done, according to the plan. But what you see along that first five miles turns to pure concrete chaos, advertising signs nightmare, south from there.
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So has our plan worked? Yeah, to a point. Its got problems. Were actually reviewing that Dale Mabry Corridor Plan again, updating it after twenty-five years. Has it worked? What isnt working? Do we need more nodes? Do we need to increase the nodes? Are we fine? Were discussing that now. Its constantly in progress. The community is constantly evolving. If you dont have people that at least understand
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The process is so complicated Bill. The normal guy out there does not have the time to dedicate understand this complicated process. It takes a few community leaders to learn, to share, to guide, to help. And over the years, I guess thats where I found my place as Ive learned the system. I learned after two years I cant fight whats down here locally because its up there in Tallahassee. Theyre screwing up my life!
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Okay, there I went. Back in I think ninety-eight [1998], I think, was the first time I lobbied for free in Tallahassee for the Sierra Club. I went back in ninety-nine [1999]. I wrote a water bill, I got pro-active and wrote a water bill connecting water planning to land-use planning. Does that sound familiar? It bombed big time that year. Bombed! I cantVictor Crist sponsored it for me in the Senate. And Johnnie [B.] Byrd, believe it or not, sponsored it in the House. It died. The next year another legislator picked it up and kept with it. In 2005 we finally got a comprehensive water planning. If the water aint there the development doesnt happen.
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Now it doesnt say that exactly, then there are caveats. But we got there, we finally got there. So I learned that, if we got it fixed down here theyre going by state law, lets change the state law. So now Im playing this local-state thing every yearlocal-state, local-state. Thats why Im so involved with the CPC issue. I was up there killing that wetlands amendment in Tallahassee this last session because our board of EPC would not allow their staff to defend themselves.
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Soits justnothing is a coincidence in government. Ill tell you right now there is no such thing. I dont care what you think. It is all there. Its planned. It happens. There is no coincidence. So I started to become part of the planning part of it and the positive solution versus reacting all the time. Thats the message Im trying to get on land use to people is that were all too busy. I mean I am absolutely not the norm. Im not your normal citizen, okay? I am in some ways, but Ive spent twelve years, with no pay, giving to my community. I mean hoursforty hours a week at some point. I understand the system. I have a passion for the system. Ive learned how to put together a non-profit gives me a little bit of money. But it gets my knowledge out there. If people would understand when you wait for the bulldozers to come in, if you wait for the re-zoning and youre not proactive in how you want to see your community and defend what you say. Its not good enough to just put it on paper on words.
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Ive spent more time defending our community plan, since its been in effect, the Lutz Community Plan in 2000, than re-zonings, fighting re-zonings. I have to now defend our plan to our government because they want to interpret it differently than we intended. And being someone who sat on the steering committee, as others in this community have, were the defenders of the plan. I understood fully, when I sat on that steering committee, it wasnt just to put a vision together and walk away. Youre committed and I need to be committed. (laughs) Im just kidding. I needed to lighten up.
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WM: No thats fine. It just hurts when I laugh.
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DL: Oh, Im sorry.
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WM: No, thats okay.
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DL: Im sorry. You wanted funny. (laughs)
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WM: No, I was going to ask how can you explain your passion for this. What drives you? What motivates you to take this on if you dont get
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DL: When I first started it was my responsibility. I took it very seriously as president of the association, okay? I educated and for nine years it was my duty, I mean its not when I took it onand when I startedIm one of those that you never just tell me and I accept it and walk blindly down the road with it. All long the way I was questioning. Why? Why? Why? How? Why? And then I said, Well where do I fix it? You cant answer the question, who answers the question? How do we fix it? How do we make this better? How do we do this?
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One thing led to another. Ive been in the legal world for thirty years. I love the legal world because it is a challenge. The law is constantly changing. Hello? Dont we all know that, unfortunately? Because of that, every case is unique. I have fine-tuned what I do in my legal profession as a paralegal to trial preparation and trial attendance. Im a litigation paralegal. I will go in right toward a trial; help an attorney organize a system in the trial. Help write the briefs, the lawsI mean the whole thing. Ive been doing it thirty years. Thats challenging. Every case is different. I love it. Its just like a hands-on, really making a difference.
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I took that knowledge and when I got into land use, the first year didnt dawn on me that they were directly connected to each other. Well were all about process. Were about comp plans, which is a law. Were about land development code, which is a law. Were about the statutes, definitely law. Ordinances, all law. Everything that governs our land use is legal based. As soon as I figured that out it, really didnt take a year, but as soon as I figured that out I realizedwhoa! Okay, I know how to play legal games. I know how to play with laws and process. So I started leaning more and more and more and asking more questions. As I was being shoved aside, just keep on, you just keep on and keep on and I forced myself to tables I was not invited at. And after awhile I made friends and accepted.
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So it takes a lot of tenacity. And now I guess the passion is I see solutions all over the place. Theyre right in front of us my friend. The political will of elected officials right now does not want to see it and it is frustrating. So Im not giving up until we see the light go. And its coming. We hit a very bad period where the pendulum swung the wrong direction. It hit its wall a year and a half ago. Its now swinging back towards the middle, back to where most people sit, which is moderation. And Im not talking democrat or republican Im talking just basic people.
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WM: Common sense?
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DL: Thats what it is, just basic common every day sense.
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WM: But you were a paralegal and so that
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DL: Oh, yes, that helped me. Everything is a legal process. Everything is legal, so it helped me tune right into that.
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WM: Okay.
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DL: Of course my thirty-year connections with lawyers didnt hurt. When we have a problem with a land use issue, Hey we need to sue these guys is somebody going to help me here? So that helped. And then when I got to Tallahassee my people skills and my leadership skills really developed during my presidency of the civic association. I was learning that I had to stand in front of boards all the time. I had to stand in front of people and talk. I was on camera. I dont even think about it any more, but back then it was like. I could hardly speak I was so nervous. I would just stumble all over the place.
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My speaking skills, my comfort level my knowledge base. Now I stand in Tallahassee in front of Senate and House committees. I give them information. They listen, because after nine years Im not giving them a line of scare stories. I give them facts they can verify. I give then talking points and information. In short, Bill, Ive learned to play the game. And you know what? There are very few what I call white hat lobbyists that know how to play the game. And I am doing everything I can to share that knowledge down here, with other people, with other civic associations. Its not hopeless. Work with me in Tallahassee.
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We had an enormous e-mail thing going up in Tallahassee this year. My group went to their groups that went to their groups. It scared the heck out of those legislators. It was great. But its the game they play up there. You got to learn the game. If you dont have moneywhat we have is the community. Lutz, Hillsborough County, we have people. We dont have money, we have people. We have voters. We have to wake up the voters and thats what Im doing now. Were waking up the voters to see the decisions youre making. By not paying attention to who youre electing is killing this county right now and the city and the state. But its changing. Its changing,
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WM: That brings me to a question. Youve talked about working with the community to control growth.
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DL: Manage. I dont want to say control. Direct it.
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WM: Okay, well direct it. Okay. Who are your allies in the community? Who are the kind of people that make the effort to come out and attend meetings, write letters
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DL: Civic groups, civic organizations.
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WM: But how would you describe those people?
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DL: Like me, the same thing. They wake up one day. A knock on the door. Wake up! Oh my God! Look at what weve got! I did not realize it was this bad! Something hit them in their back yard. We all, we all start as NIMBYs [Not In My Back Yard] in the citizen world. Every one of us start out as Not-In-My-Back-Yard. Every one. Im there too. Im not going to say I wasnt.
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Of course, I signed that petition. I dont want that damned school in my back yard. But it wasnt that I didnt want it in my back yard for personal reasons. It was because we were going to spend millions and screw up the character of an entire area, over a school. Schools are supposed part of the community, not destroy a community. They were doing that. Again, things have changed.
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WM: Well you say
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DL: And these people are everyday citizens. And what Ive done over the years is, as I see a new one show up at a rezoning, Im at the same rezoning that theyre sitting at. Get their name and get their number. We start connecting. We keep connecting. Were keeping connecting and connecting and connecting. So ten years of connections Ive put together.
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WM: Im trying to get a sense of the kind of person who is there. Would you call them working people managerial people?
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DL: Yes. Theyre everything. Theyre from lawyers to housewives to single business people totheyre everybody and anybody. They start out as NIMBYs. They see what the process is. They get incensed. Its what they see that angers them to learn more and try to fix it. And when they realize how complicated it isit sucks you in like a vacuum. I mean truly, civic activism is a huge machine.
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There are times I sit here and think, I just wish I was back fifteen years ago in the abyss of oblivion. Its so easy to live your life just worrying about your familywhich I still do. But I know too much now. I cant pick up a newspaper anymore without throwing it across the room. (laughs). I know how to fix it and I see the greed, the stupidity, nonpublicIve just watched so much thats around here go. The public interest is being totally lost. And the public isnt engaging in it yet. Youre starting to see it with the tax with the tax issue. That is a good example.
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Let me tell you something, dont you think for a second that it was all Tallahassee. Theyre trying to blame Tallahassee. These little darlings down here took that extra glut of money and spent it like drunken sailors. Absolutely they did! When they should have been pulling in the reins and putting it in a pot for rainy days. We wouldnt be doing these budget cuts now if they hadnt grabbed every dime they could get their hands on and spent it as fast as they could. Thats what theyve been doing. Shame on them!
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So now what they are doing, politically is saying shame on us. And hitting us, the public, and all of the things that we hold dear to this community. Our planning, our environment. Youre watching our growth controls and our land use stuff going straight down the toilet right now. Thanks to this County Commission we have in power. They are consistently now trying to get rid of the EPC, the Environmental Protection Commission, trying to get rid of the planning commission. Trying anything that is putting the littlest speed bump in the road for a permit or development.
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Now on the side of the permitting part of this, from a pure business perspective, its insane to ask any developer to go to four places to get wetlands looked at. We wouldnt do that in a normal business world. We would not ask you to go four separate organizations to look at the same thing in different ways.
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I dont disagree with the development community for wanting to streamline that. Absolutely, it makes good business sense. But it needs to come down to the local level. Thats where we can control best. Thats where we have the most input. Thats where the citizens have the most power, making sure our land use stays as local as possible. When we allow the state to take over and to oversee and manage, you lose control of your community. So its very important, these community planes are very important and that, we as citizens take back our land use in Hillsborough County. We have to. Our future is at stake, not just in Lutz, but in this whole county, east county.
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Thonotosassa, their comp plan, talk about bad land use. Jim Norman little forty million dollar stadium out there in the middle of nowhere. Totally against the comp plan! That comp plan say there will not be any significant growth out there for twenty years! It is to remain two lane rural agricultural. Hes going to put a stadium, hotel and restaurants, motels. That is not what our law says you can do, Mr. Commissioner. So watch, hes going to try and change the law. You see what?s going on? Thats what Im talking about, we?ve got absolute personal agendas going on now.
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WM: So these people are just trying to increase their own wealth? Is that?
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DL: And for a handful of people, who give their campaigns that are helping them move into higher office? Weve created a nightmare with term limits. There is no historical knowledge in Tallahassee anymore. Its all in the staff. There is no historical knowledge in the County Commission.
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Jim Norman is our historical knowledge base, for Gods sake! Thats scary! He could care less. Hes done things in the past for our environment, but he darn sure isnt acting friendly with it now. So when youve got new people and they dont know and they dont understand youre losing all of that which kept you constant over the years, which kept your protections in place. These new guys dont have a clue what half of this stuff is. They are following bad leadership. Thats exactly how Im going to say it, very bad leadership. So our land planning is under attack right now. Our whole land use, every part of it, from environment, to planning to implementation to just oversight.
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WM: Well I was going to say, tell me whomy next question is going toIll ask about your allies. And I was going to say, tell me about your adversaries.
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DL: Right now the biggest one seems to be the bulk of our government, our elected officials. I can tell you that staff are our allies. Staff in the county and the cities, they really want to do the right thing. The politics and the power above them, they really cant. Their hands are getting tied. Its very frustrating. If you look at the amount of turnover at planning and growth management in the last five years, its amazing! Its an amazing thing. And none of them will blow the whistle. None of them will say, The commissioner is leaning on the bosses and we said this and the manager said No because the commissioner got to him. Weve crossed our lines of government in this county. Were supposed to have three levels of checks and balances of power. Our executive, legislative and judicial branch.
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In our charter, because nobody is paying attention and we keep voting as, Oh that sounds good citizens. We have put our administrator directly under the power of our County Commission. It says in the charter, she is separate. But our commission hires and fires her. So how separate do you think she is going to be?
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Our county attorney, directly under the control of our commission. Now how independent and objective is she going to be for the good of the populace, when her paycheck and her job depends upon the County Commission? We have an internal auditor, answers only to the BOCC [Board of County Commissioners]. So weve now got a built-in ex-hatchet job person to the whim of the county commissioners. And people wonder why everything is falling apart? Were not paying attention. We only have two of the three balances of power in this county right now. Its the County Commission and our courts.
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Thats why you saw the county mayor initiative happen. We need that third part of our government back to balance. We dont have it and until we get that balance, land use taxes, name the issue, its all going to be personal gain, private agenda, money organized. Its just that simple. Im not going to say that all, 100 percent of the commissioners the majority. We have a couple of good ones and thats just about it. (laughs) Thats it.
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WM: Would you want to comment on the good ones? I dont want you to go on record saying anything want. But I was thinking
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DL: Well all I can tell you is what I see and I see Rose Ferlita and Mark Sharpe fighting to the death to try and do what is right and what common sense dictates. They cantthey are two against five. There is a block of four votes now, all the time. And you cant get past that block. Its a very bad block. Its not in the public interest. Its a private interest block. At one point I was calling them the Jock Block. But it has expanded beyond the Jock Block.
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WM: The Jock Block?
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DL: Think of the three athlete commissioners. The three that have got athletics involved, some kind of sports. Thats all Im going to say. (laughs) You can figure it out, if you think about it and see who they are. Go a head.
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WM: But you were telling me that you ran for office growth issues. So tell me about that.
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DL: Two thousand aught-two [2002] I ran in District 2, which is just a small district, small district, theres no such thing in Hillsborough County, but it was basically the northern part of Hillsborough County. I lost to Ken Hagen.
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WM: And you were running for?
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DL: County Commission.
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WM: Okay.
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DL: I lost to Ken Hagen. His machine was in place. His daddys a realtor and he got US Homes and everybody in everybodys family. I just could not compete. I didnt win. I was just determined. Thats fine. Im going to get my growth platform out. Im just going to live it. Im just going to keep pushing it from the way I can do it.
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I was asked again to run in 2004, this time county wide; which I did. I ran against Mark Sharpe. Mark beat me by 30,000 votes. Joe Redner was in that race as an independent, or no party, I think he was no party back then. And he took 40,000 votes. Do the math. Joe didnt steel the Republican vote, Joe stole the Democrat vote.
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Mark Sharpe and I have become, I wont say great friends, because were not great friends but we talk to each other. He listens to my perspective. And you know what? Ive told him, thats all Im asking out of any commissioner. Any of them! Just listen. You dont always have to agree but listen to what we have to say. Weigh it. Dont go to any meeting with your mind already made up. The public hearings are there for you to listen to the public and weigh your vote, before you go in. Just doing it.
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I can tell you, Mark has done that. So far Ive seen Rose do it. I cant say the other five have. So I told Mark, You be a good commissioner and Im not going to run against you. And Ive kept my word. This last election he was up for re-election. He called me, Denise? Im not running against you Mark. Youre doing a good job. Youre getting a little stronger out there, but youre doing fine. Keep going on the right. Protect the public. Protect the public. And thats what he is doing.
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And thats what every commissioner should be doing, is protecting the public interest. And as a board, theyre not doing that right now. As a collective board our County Commission is not protecting the publics interests. They are weakening our land use laws. They are weakeningthey tore out the livable communitya whole element. Here we are at the state level, the County Commission. The County Commission has instructed, years ago, we need to clarify in our comp plan. We need to really let the development community see what it is communities want. So lets put it together where the big picture shows up, okay?
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The planning commission spends three years, gets 3,000 peoples input and we put together whats called the livable community element of the comprehensive plan. We pulled out the sidewalks stuff, out of that part of the plan. We pulled out the road part. So itseverything is one place in the comp plan to show you how to create quality of life communities.
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Developers didnt want anything to do with that. Oh my God! Youre going to make me put sidewalks in? Oh! This is going to cost a lot of money. Oh my God! Oh my God! No public hearing! In a workshop the Board of County Commissioners stripped it out with no public comment. And thats it. Its gone. Theyre shopping the comp plan around and we cant put the element back in, cause the Commission said they dont want it. But the public hasnt engaged. They didnt let us have a public hearing on it.
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So, again, the land use stuff, right here in Hillsborough County, our whole quality of life is under attack. Its under political attack by personal self-interest; Commissioners sitting on that board. Ten years ago I would have pointed the City Council of Tampa and said, Bad! Bad! Bad! Look at what these Bad bad guys!
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They are wonderful compared to this bunch. I mean the City Council is finally doing publicgetting a grip and doing the right thing, to get to the solutions we need. Nobody is right and nobody is wrong, but we got to start engaging all of us and talking this stuff out. Thats why, when I lost the election in 2004, I had a lot of people say, Denise, you just know this growth management stuff. You get it and know the process. Youve got answers. Please dont stop.
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All right, Im in Tallahassee. Im watching all the developers on this side of the committee room, all the environmentalists and people on this of the room. Dont talk to each other. Do not; do not talk to each other, in Tallahassee. You know what? I decided Im going to put together a group thats got developers on it, environmentalists, community leaders and business leaders.
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I set up a virtual organization called Coalition For Responsible Growth. You can look on the Website, I dont know if I gave it to you, if you looked at it: www.c4rg.com. And we reply all. For example, on Friday I sent and e-mail to my board and I said, Do you want Coalition for Responsible Growth to get involved with this Environmental Protection Commission? Them getting rid of the wetlands division? I knew I had developers on there. Theyd all been quiet about this, except for a hand-full of them. Theyre all disappearing on this issue. So I threw it out there and said Developers, I especially want to hear from you. Theyve all said, Go for it.
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And thats what Im doing. Im going for it. But what we do is haggle out the stuff. When Im in Tallahassee Im hearing the developers, This, this and this, on an issue. Im hearing the environmentalist saying, This, this and this. Im bringing this stuff back to my board and Im saying, Discuss this. Tell me, how do we bring some kind of solution forward? How do we offer some kind of something, other than gridlock? That Im seeing up in Tallahassee. And thats what weve been doing. If you look at the papers we have written, they are very common sense, matter of fact, not aggressive activist in-your-face stuff, solution oriented.
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So I bought all of the warring factions together to talk about the warring issues that were dealing with in the real world. Trying to help get some solutions and thats where we are today.
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WM: Let me ask a little bit about your campaign. You said you ran on responsible growth
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DL: No, I mean growth management, controlI mean just understanding the growth issues and knowing some of the things we need to do to start moving forward. And we have not moved forward in Hillsborough County in over ten years.
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WM: Tell what were some of the things that you felt they needed to do.
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DL: Transportation! Theyve been piddling around with [that] for ten years. Theyve ignored transportation. They stopped the Committee of 99 recommendations. They stopped two referendums trying to ask taxpayers what they want. They wont even let any of these issues get to the taxpayer. Ten years they have stalled out the transportation issue. Were now paying dearly for it. We have got failed roads everywhere. And its coming back to bite the development community in the butt, right now. Because we now have very strong concurrency laws that say, You will not pull another permit on a failed road. You cannot do it! Weve got seventy-five failed roads in this county. Developers cant pull permits on those roads. Were talking roads, like Highway 60, Highway 301, Kennedy, Dale Mabry. Theyre failed roads.
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WM: When you say failed roads, you mean roads that cant handle their traffic?
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DL: Cant handle any more capacity. Roads that are beyond, what those roads are capableway beyond what they capable of handling. And the laws, when we did the growth management law in 2005, we put seven amendments on that as the Coalition for Responsible Growth. It was perfectly clear. If is failed, no permit. Right now, what we have in Hillsborough County is a moratorium on seventy-five roads. How theyre getting around it is the County Commission is saying, Throw millions in to the road system. You pay for it and well let you have your development.
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Thats one way of doing it. They should have been doing that all along. Its called impact fees. So now what they are doing is getting blackmailed by the board. If you want your development youre going to put $22 million into the road and the improvements and this and this and this to get your development.
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You know it would be a lot easier not to blackmail the development and say, You will pay X amount of dollars because the real cost of that house going in is X amount. And they know what that cost is. Bill, they know what the costs are. They refuse to put it out there. They refuse to listen. They dont want it out there because then they are going to have to react to it. Do you know two years ago Kathy Castor, when she was sitting on the County Commission, asked the planning commission, Weve got a comp plan that shows densities and supposedly a vision for twenty years. Build it out. I want to see what this county looks like if we actually took that comp plan and built it out.
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Bob Hunter had it ready a year ago. Jim Norman has refused to allow it in front of the Board of County Commissioners for over a year now; absolutely refused to allow it on the agenda. Cause what youre going to see is there is a 6,000 dollars per house, on transportation alone deficit. We need to increase the transportation impact fees. The real cost of a house is in the 20,000 versus the 10,000 were charging them. So every time the developer if were not making that growth pay for itself, you and I are paying for it in our taxes and thats what happened now.
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The inequity of the cost of new growth coming in, and them paying their fair share, nobody is asking them to pay more. Theyve now created the inequity where we have to subsidize all the new growth. We have now, as tax payers, subsidized all of the new growth. Because we dont have elected officials that will make them pay impact fees. I dont know if blackmail is the right word, thats illegal, but I mean, the basically put them on the spot at re-zonings. I see them.
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You need to pay for this intersection. New lights, new sidewalks, add a lane. Do this. Do that. Do, do, do, do, do, do. Ten million dollars later, Okay, now you can have your subdivision. Thats the wrong way to go about this. Yes, they should be paying their fair share. But what theyre being forced to do now, is not only pay their fair share, but theyre paying for all the past bad decisions. Having to fix problems that were not fixed to begin with.
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So now we have this inequity in What is the fair share for the development community? They created the problem, yet this particular landowner, and guy right here, didnt. He just happens to have a representative thats part of the bigger problem over here. Its a mess. We have created a taxed subsidized mess in growth in this state.
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WM: The tax subsidizes are subsidizing the developers?
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DL: Its subsidizing the development, okay? And when the developers arent paying the fees and the shares to go in, what does that mean? It means it adds to their profit. My friend, when I found out that developers were making, a couple of years ago, 40 percent profit, 40 percent profit! I went ballistic. I dont want to hear the numbers dont work. The numbers dont work Mr. Developer because its your profit theyre cutting into. They work. Everybody else gets an 8 to10 percent profit margin. You get below 40 [percent] and you scream the economics dont work. Thats truly whats been going on. Its the greed Im talking about. Its not all of them, okay? It is a handful, a big handful.
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WM: Its enough of them.
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DL: Its enough of them so that they make the biggest impact. Unfortunately its the big projects.
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WM: Okay. Well, tell me about the Committee for Responsible Growth.
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DL: Coalition.
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WM: Okay, the coalition.
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DL: I know, we almost called ourselves a committee. What about it?
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WM: Tell me how it got started. You talked earlier about linking up environmentalists and development people, but tell me about that, because it sounds like an interesting proposition. Youve talked around it, but not addressed it directly.
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DL: We wantthe bottom line isyou should see my board. When I say developers, the for stands for a lot of things. But I have got extremely conservative Republicans sitting on my board and Ive got your tree-hugging, tie themselves to a bulldozer liberals sitting there too. We dont meet very often, okay? Not face to face. I know, dont laugh. You can imagine, there is no way I want to handle that.
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Collectively, very smart people. Collectively, I picked them because they not only represent those four; they also come from Plant Cityall the jurisdictions in Hillsborough County. Youve got people from south county, Thonotosassa, Town and Country, Keystone, City of Tampa, Ruskin, Wimauma. They are coming from all different perspectives. From different neighborhood perspectives, community perspectives and business perspectives. They are a micro cosmism of what is truly going in front of elected bodies, whether it is at the state level or the local level.
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So what I found is; since we cant get people up in Tallahassee to talk to one another and if you look down here that the developers and the Sierra Club aint exactly kissing buddies right now. The hope is to hash this out through virtual conversations on e-mails and come up with something everybody can live with. And believe it or notoh Lord to be a fly on the wall at some of these conversationsThese nasty developersWell these stupid ass activists! Blah-Blah-Blah.
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They dont insult each other directly but they do get into it every once and a while.
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WM: Okay. The future historian who accesses this interview, where can they find the paper you wrote?
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DL: Its on my website. I keep all papers, they just go into the little archive. You just go in and click on anything Ive ever put out there in public. Its on the Web site, www. C, as in coalition, the number four, R for responsible G for growth .com, c4rg.com.
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WM: Okay. And can you site other examples of where youve brought two disparate groups together?
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DL: Oh, in Tallahassee all of the time.
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WM: Okay.
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DL: All the time. I mean, we are on wetland issues, environmental issues, growth management issues. For example, not this session but the session before, a bill trying to create statewide impact fees. Right now each countyand not all counties have impact fees, its on a county-by-county basis. They wanted a standard, across the board state impact fee. My paper originally said we would support something so you can go from one county to the other and know what youre going to pay. There is a formula there and youre not playing with each political body. But then we started looking at it and realized it wasnt going to work this way.
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Whats going to happen is if it is a state mandated fee, the state is going to get the money. Now weve got to fight every jurisdiction to get their percentage of money from the state. You dont want to go there either. I went to the developers. There are a lot of times Ill be up in Tallahassee and Ill be listening to the development lobbyist up there, saying one thing. Ill come down here and call two or there of the developers on my board and say, I need to know what the industry down here thinks. I need to know what youre doing and why youre doing it. And they will tell me. A lot of times Bill, I dont share it with the whole big, big group like that because they are giving me industry secrets. But it helps me understand what the bigger issue is.
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Its not that theyre giving secrets; theyre just helping me understand where the mentality of the industry is, so I know how to deal with them in Tallahassee. Cause it is the same. It is all connected. And weve worked very well on issues like that. Theyve helped guide me. No we dont want you to do this.
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Actually, on the statewide impact fee, everybody on my board agreed, kill it. No that is not in the best interest of anybody. No, kill it. I killed it. I didnt do it alone. That was our position and we were just one of many that helped kill it. But that is the kind of stuff we do. We get a consensus. I might not beI might want them to say, Do you want me to go out in front on an issue and get on the media and just rah, rah, rah, on an issue? And theyll go, Well we liked the issue and we want you in there, but why dont you tone it Theyll get to where they all can agree.
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And believe it or not, through all of the e-mails and all the discussions, somehow, every time, weve managed to find a common ground, where we can move forward on responsible growth. Sometimes its baby step on moving forward. Sometimes its a radical new approach on something we know will work.
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WM: It would be interesting to see the environmentalists and the developers
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DL: Interesting e-mails.
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WM: I can imagine.
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DL: I spent a lot of time just going, Dont respond to that please. (laughs) Its real. I cant tell some of these environmentalists not to feel that the developers are out of control. I cant tell them how to feel and that feeling is real. And its real in Tallahassee and its real downtown. Now is this the truth? Is it a total reality? Its a piece of it. Okay, yes some of the development community is out of control. Theyre not always right, theyre not always wrong. Thats what Ive found; there are two sides to this.
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And from a business perspective there are things the development community is asking for pure business reasons. And absolutely, theyre right. Then they take that and sometimes run way too far with it. Thats wherewe will support something to a point. Again, Im supporting one stop shopping permitting. How stupid are we to keep asking these guys to go to four places? Thats insanity. But do I support the way they are doing it? Absolutely not.
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So we the people of Hillsborough County will have to take back our county, if we want it. And were going to find out, in the next months how badly we the people want and care about this county. Cause if we do not stop the board from doing what it is doing, with environmental protection, shutting out our voices, going against process not looking for the public interest; actually going against public interest, weve lost. If we let them get away with this we will never be able to control this board again. And weve got year of hell ahead of us.
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WM: You said something earlier about, and if you want to comment on this you can, but with the coming election that people feel there is going to be more public involvement in government?
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DL: Were hoping. Were hoping to raisethe issues, how they are acting now, people dont tune in until it hits them at home. Whether its their pocket book, whether its their backyard, their street; if it touches their lives, they come alive. We havent had any issues. Growth management is this vague thing. The newspapers, like I said the media, they dont talk about the success stories. They dont go into the hundreds of hours we spend defending the community on a positive basis.
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Let that one little development, where the guys a jerk and were having to fight it. Honey, that will be all over the newspaper. So every time you see my name in the paper its fighting against something. I spend 90 percent of my time fighting for things, in a positive way. But thats the perception.
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What I learned as a candidate is that only 10 percent of the people who vote have actually read a newspaper, TV, gone to a meeting remotely tell you who the commissioners are or whats going on. That means you have 90 percent of the voters blindly going into the polls. Blindly! I think the tax issue this year, people will not be happy. People are not happy. The solution theyve offered is not an acceptable solution to people. Youre already hearing it and you havent seen anything yet.
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Put that together with trying to tear up our environmental protections and our planning protections, I think youll have enough people waking up in the next few months that you might actually get a throw the bums out mentality going for the election this year. This commission is playing with dynamite. Theyre just so arrogant about it, they just dont even care. I mean they dont care. Its very sad.
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WM: It is kind of frightening.
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DL: Its a dark day in our history for your archives my friend. We need to come back in about a year after the next election and see what we do. (laughs)
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WM: Okay. Well weve been talking for about the past hour and a half. Is there anything you want to comment on that I havent asked you about?
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DL: I guessyou know Ive thrown a lot of negative at you. Its not hopeless, Bill. I think for the purposes of your research and your paperthe public stopped engaging itself years ago. We did it. Its taken years for it to happen. But when we took civics out of our schools, when we stopped teaching our kids civic pride, the American government; why you should vote, why you should engage. Theyre never taught that anymore. So why do we expect this, or any other generation to be running to the polls when all they see and read is corruption in the newspaper. The negative, the awful. Im hoping the public will get mad enough to pay attention. First you need their attention. And then we have to educate them over the next few months. You can make a difference. Every person, one person can make a difference, a huge difference. Ive seen it for years.
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Good old Margaret Mead, in her little saying, Dont ever think that one person cant make a difference. Throughout history thats the only thing that ever really has. Something like that. Its true, very true. Here I am just a little nobody, minding my own business in Lutz. Signed a petition and went to a meeting Im lobbying in Tallahassee on behalf of a corporation now for growth management. So I guess Gods calling is part of my thing. It is part of my calling, I believe that.
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There are reasons I lost both elections, besides political reasons. But Gods got a bigger purpose and I have not stopped for ten yeas and I think thats the drive that Ive got.
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WM: Okay. Well that sounds like a good place to conclude. And let me thank you for taking the time to talk with me and remind you again that the information youve shared with me in this interview will be deposited in the Special Collections of the University of South Floridas library. And be available for researchers to use in studying land use issues in the Hillsborough County area.
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DL: Well thank you. I am really honored to be asked. I dont know if Im considered an expert or just an in-the-trenches worker, but either way, thank you for asking my opinion.
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WM: Well youre welcome and I wish you luck in your struggle for what is right.



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C O P Y R I G H T N O T I C E T h i s O r a l H i s t o r y i s c o p y r i g h t e d b y t h e U n i v e r s i t y o f S o u t h F l o r i d a L i b r a r i e s O r a l H i s t o r y P r o g r a m o n b e h a l f o f t h e B o a r d o f T r u s t e e s o f t h e U n i v e r s i t y o f S o u t h F l o r i d a C o p y r i g h t 2 0 0 7 U n i v e r s i t y o f S o u t h F l o r i d a A l l r i g h t s r e s e r v e d T h i s o r a l h i s t o r y m a y b e u s e d f o r r e s e a r c h i n s t r u c t i o n a n d p r i v a t e s t u d y u n d e r t h e p r o v i s i o n s o f t h e F a i r U s e F a i r U s e i s a p r o v i s i o n o f t h e U n i t e d S t a t e s C o p y r i g h t L a w ( U n i t e d S t a t e s C o d e T i t l e 1 7 s e c t i o n 1 0 7 ) w h i c h a l l o w s l i m i t e d u s e o f c o p y r i g h t e d m a t e r i a l s u n d e r c e r t a i n c o n d i t i o n s F a i r U s e l i m i t s t h e a m o u n t o f m a t e r i a l t h a t m a y b e u s e d F o r a l l o t h e r p e r m i s s i o n s a n d r e q u e s t s c o n t a c t t h e U N I V E R S I T Y O F S O U T H F L O R I D A L I B R A R I E S O R A L H I S T O R Y P R O G R A M a t t h e U n i v e r s i t y o f S o u t h F l o r i d a 4 2 0 2 E F o w l e r A v e n u e L I B 1 2 2 T a m p a F L 3 3 6 2 0

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Land Use Oral History Project Patel Center for Global Solutions University of South Florida Interview with: Ms. Denise Layne Interviewed by: William Mansfield Location: Lutz, Florida Date: June 25, 2007 Transcribed by: Wm. Mansfield Edited by: Wm. Mansfield Audit Edited by: Jessica Merrick Audit Edit Date: November 27, 2007 Final Edit by: Nicole Cox Final Edit Date: December 11, 2007 WM: We always put a label on the disc by saying: This is Bill Mansfield, from the Patel Center for Global Solution s talking with Ms. Denise Layne here in the Lutz Library on June 25, 2007. Ms. Layne we always get people to start out by having them state their name and telling us when they were born and where they were born. So let her go. DL : My name is Denise Don na Layne. (spells) L A Y N E. I was born February 25, 1955, in Chicago, Illinois. WM: Okay. When did you come to Lutz? my youth. I decided there was nothing for me in Detroit. I came down here for vacation and never went back. That was in Cocoa Beach. almost thirty years, I think. WM: Okay. What brought you here? DL: Vacation, and WM: Okay. What brought you to Lutz, in particular? DL: I had gotten married in 1976, to my first husband, in Wildwood, [Florida] believe it or not. I had lived in Wildwood for a couple of y ears, working at Sumter Correctional Institution for a year and a half.

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had to get on wi th my life. utz? DL: I worked for a homebuilder, actually. One of the jobs, as I was working my way through my life. I started working for Westbury?? Homes. I was the vice president of the custom home building company. One of the guys died. The other one, John Westf all?? is still around. five years Because we owned the subdivision I lived in. We we re the developers and homebuilders in that. There were only 13 little lots, out there in Lutz. I bought one of the lots and designed the home, built the home and helped everybody on my street design and interior decorate all of their homes too. [While] wor king for a homebuilder. years ago. And sold real estate, as well. WM: But your development was here in Lutz? WM: What was Lutz like when you first came here? DL: Orange trees as far as you could see. I remember the orange blossoms. For years I just looked forward to the orange blossom season. I think there are maybe two or three little orchards left in Lutz, which is very sad. Very, very sad. five years ago. The only place like that in the state now is around Lake Wales; where you just see nothing but orange groves everywhere the true growing stuff. Lutz st ill has its semi rural character. I dare anybody that lives out here or moves out rural. [I] never did. But that is one thing, that as a community, for years for d ecades to maintain that character. That rural, semi rural character. The small town feeling, the feeling of belonging to a community.

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in the world, but we have a what everybody knows to be the core of Lutz. That helps because it gave off a physical as all my time here. WM: Now when you say that you want to preserve the rural, or the small town feeling of Lutz, describe what that means. How would you define that? DL: The first thing anybody will tell you because if you see how I went through this. Through community planning, through all the different land use things that we have done um People say that keeping open natural green space is top priority in Lutz. Read our plan; read anything about Lutz and within the first paragraph you will see that. Open space, not cookie cutter grid like streets. Yes [a grid] in our downtown. That makes sense when you lowed density. We had to compromise on one acre lots. Tha planning. I will be the first to admit it. But this community has developed that way over a hundred years and all we did was to continue its pattern of development. Would I recommend one acre lots all over the county? No! Absolutely not! But we have a hundred continued. What we wanted was one house to five we had to compromise on the one acre [lots]. WM: O town feel. The green DL: Channeling development in the areas that we want developed, not just everything up certain quality and quantity of development that needs to be planned in different areas. the zoning What the development community has sold to our elected officials [is] the highest and best use. We [the development community] are entitled to the higher denser commercial [use of property]. That is not the property rights law. That is not the Bert Harris Act. It is the zoning you now have on your property.

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WM: The what act? DL: Bert Harris Act. That is the [said in a sarcastic tone] Property Rights Law playing with that in Ta llahassee for three or four years now. your sense of community, how would you define that? um our markets in the p ark with our governor. I mean our civic association has been instrumental for years pulling our community together in a fun fundraising event. It gets a lot of publicity. It raises thousands and thousands of dollars [and] 100 percent of it goes back into the community. DL: So that brings people together. We created our train depot out here instead of always being known as organization work with developers in our commun ity to help them see the vision, rather than the negative energy that always seems to go out from different groups. It seems like because they are fighting for their homesteads and their lives. We decided to start doing positive things, so the governor?? thing has been out there in front. We decided that the community concerts? Do you want the We built it and made sure that it could be used as a stage as well. So we actually [made it] a dual y ou should see if you go read [the sign on] the depot [it tells you] we the people of Lutz paid for that. Not the government. This was not a tax subsidized [project]. Absolutely not! t them buy in the protection and they helped with getting the people alive and motiv ated to help defend the community. WM: Okay. [Earlier] you asked me to ask you how you got started in this. So let her go. You said it started with a knock on the door? But I got a knock on my door asking me to sign a petition to stop the Lutz High School on lane road. There was no water or sewage out there and they were about to build something that was going to have 3,000 students in it. [I d much back then], but just from a pure planning, land use perspective I knew a school of

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that size was not going to fit on a two lane road with absolutely no infrastructure. wrote. That group was Denise Lasher Denise Layne, Steve Paulizine?? Ron Stoye?? Caroline Meaker?? stop [the school]. [Sure] we actually tried to stop it there yes. But we also were working behind the scene at the school board, to find another site. We wanted the high school in the community; they just kept trying to put it on two lane roads where it w killing the Lutz High School. We worked our butts off for over a year, trying to find another site. The politics would Six months after we started that initiative, the Lutz Civic Assoc iation was legally alive, but technically we had not had a meeting or anything in three years. So it was still a corporation and still [active] but there were really no people in it. Caroline Meaker had been keeping it alive for the three years, so it wo uld not go defunct. Caroline and I played hand help you get it started. But we need you out in front do [That night] four hundred people showed up for the first meeting of the Civic Association to re activate it. That night I was nominated as president. Of course we declined, we had to do it right. Get the board, get everything back in place. And then do it legally. But I ended up president, [in 1996, as I say] the first president year, still with the Civic Association, but now as their land use liaison; because I just started land use and growth management non profit. I wanted to be part of protecting my got off all director of the Coalition for Responsible Growth. WM: Tell me about um the activities of the Lutz Civic Association, to protect and preserve Lutz. DL: What we found was once we got past the school issue, which took two or three years, but during that time there became a place for people to go when re zonings were

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happening in the community. That had stopped, so every little neighborhood was on its own, for a while. The very first rezoning I did we did was mini warehouses, on [HWY] 41, right in our downtown, what we considered our business [district] downtown, which is next to where warehouses on it. tying to re build a vibrant downtown and we got this gumba trying to put social activity. So we were trying to dissuade him from that and [get him to] work with us on anoth er land use. with the re zoning [request]. We won. It killed his rezoning [request]. His name is Cliff Livingston. He now sits on my board of directors of Coalition 4 Re sponsible Growth. He is not an enemy, he is a friend. He has built that whole understands, as most developers, the true ones really want a win win situation. They want to enhance to work with the community to create a good project. overpowering development interests that, right now, seem to be controlling [our elected officials in the county] to the point that it is hurting us. WM: Okay, tell me you all came together to fight the school? We now get public notice of everyt hing that goes on within our borders and with a mile game. Community plan, developing the code, part of the Northeast Plan, the Citrus Park Plan, Every one of them, Bill, even thought there are similarities in rural character, the core of each community has its own unique charac

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size fits One code! Right now we still have mostly that. One code fits every little issue in the county and Country, which is not for sure [the same as in] Brandon. Okay? So we have become like the watchdogs. And then we learned I would say 90 percent of the time, after ten years, the development community will call talk to you about. We want to make sure we are seeing the same vision in the community And I can tell you that maybe three times in the last five years have we actually had to issue is. Most of the time it gets resolved. Of course the public out there still sees development as running rampant, which is funny. e out here to live in the rural and get away from the hubbub of downtown, now wants to slam the door behind them. that. s with developers [discussing issues]. (We They want us fighting and rabid. So you only he ar [about] the fighting and rabid side of twenty [hours] working behind the scenes to make a better community and actually done a very positive and productive thing. So bad political situation in this county right now. And we, the stupid voters, have let it e do not

PAGE 9

dearly for it. DL: Well the land use is now a probl em with our BOCC. The developers have got a strong hold on them. We cannot WM: BOCC stands for? DL: Our County Commission, Hillsborough County Commission. They have succeeded with this new board, of getting a solid block of four votes. WM: But BOCC sta nds for? DL: Board of County Commissioners. WM: Okay. Thank you. like that. DL: Hillsborough Board of Coun ty Commissioners, okay. DL: Okay. organized to oppose it and you DL: Oppose it and look for a new site. It was the opposition that the paper always picked the fields with the school staff. Okay? What ultimately ended up happening is that Denise Lasher, out of her own pocket, hi red an attorney, Ted Taub and had to sue the school board to stop them from there. Politically, what happened at that point was, the school having a pot of money, ready to go in Lutz because of spending two years fighting with the community, trying to cram something down our throats, that did not fit. Town and Country was also second on the list to get a school. They switched the priority from Lutz to Town and Country and got their school built first.

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us with a high school on Lutz Lake Fern [Road]. The difference between that on a two lane road Lake Fern is two lanes.) The difference is we spent two and a half years now as a community. The Civic Association mediated between the School Board, the Turn Pike, a meetings where we coordinated [the planning]. This all has to be timed (slaps a the infrastructures out there. (speaks with emphasis) We worked together and we brought the school in. Had the school district not dug in, back in 95, and worked with us, like they (finally!) are working with us now, we would have had a high school on Lutz already. WM: Do you have any idea why they dug in and DL: Politics. One word: Politics. WM: Could you explain that a little bit more? DL: (Sighs) The politi cal will of where the district wanted to put schools, versus where the community wanted [to locate the school]. The school district is one of the last bureaucracies. Mary Ellen Elliay?? has taken us a long way in the right direction. A long, long way! I admire her immensely for what she is doing play. WE will decide where the schools g o. Be damned with the county planning. It That was the attitude eleven years ago. Since the Lutz High School Issue, we took a beating. The Community is getting a bum wrap for not wanting a high school. [That is] not t rue. But because of that issue the district had the force to start including [us]. We went to Tallahassee. We changed laws. See, now our governor forced the school district to plan its school with the Comp. Plan, [and] with the community. We passed that l aw in 2005, the Growth Management Act.

PAGE 11

you t little neighborhood things here Then you throw three thousand kids in and change the whole character of the area. the knowledge and the recognition now that these schools have the impact that they have, is finally being ack nowledged. They would not acknowledge that back then. benefiting from the beating we took and the laws we had to change to get us there. (Not that they are doing a great job but we are getting better.) (chuckles) you know how people are: they like to label. We organized it, yes. But when we had to show up to community meetings, we had to go before the district, when we had to talk to the commission hundred people in the room. ll phone blasts out a chiming ring tone) WM: But what you did to oppose the school is you just showed up at the meetings and voiced you opposition and had the support of the entire community or a large portion of the community? DL: Oh, it was letter writ ing campaigns. It was showing up for meetings. It was talking to your attorney. It was rallying groups. It was speaking to different organizations and groups and making them understand what the issues were. and politically the [school] d istrict tried to lay this out as a political ( These people are anti school Anti kids in these schools. We have grandkids in these schools. We want the school in Lutz. But we are not going to sacrifice the entire eastern, rural section of Lutz to accommodate a school. Put it on Highway 41. Put it on one of our four l ane [roads]. Put it on Dale School. We lost our high school just that politically quick. We went from losing one high school i

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mail activity, letter writing, meeting with the commissioners, meeting with the district, meeting with the School Board. Attorneys are involved. Meetings wit h real estate people, looking at sites (sighs) WM: Sounds like it was a frus trating experience, but ultimately a successful one. DL: Yes! WM: So but you um mentioned the mini warehouses, is that something that followed closely on the school issue? DL: It had nothing to do with it, but it happened like four months after the sc hool issue. Once the civic association kicked back into life And at first, all we were doing [was fighting.] thing was a fight a fight a fight. Anybody who knows me knows will do. I do not want it negative. I want it positive. these developers before they file these things. If they will let us talk to them before they It took a couple [or] three years, but we got there. I mean if y is willing to talk communities have problems with developers making promises and then breaking them them any more. Why I am I going to waste time getting a bunch of promises I know will not be kept? So we just do what we got to do. But, s eriously 90 percent is very positive and we can work with them. And they do call. WM: Okay. So of the whole process. But the successful organization to protect Lutz from this unplann ed school um energized the community to continue to protect Lutz from unplanned, unwarranted development?

PAGE 13

always verbalize it well. But we know we like the green space. We know we love to see that. So, over the years we were the first community p lan. We were the first rural community plan in the state; Lutz and Keystone, at the same time. acter and vision. If you will read [and see] that these people are clearly telling [us] they want the open space. They want trashed. That brings me to my second part of my growth management. The e nvironment is very much part of growth management. And when you have sixty eight lakes in Lutz. And all what I had to do in a very short of time. Over the years I keep learning and knowing more and more and more. But it is an integral part of our development now. The one to protect our So we have to keep fighting their battles, because we do not have a political will battles. I do believe government, as a whole really enjoys keeping the pot riled, beca use they then your politics. WM: Okay. DL: Back to them again, uh? (laughs) WM: Tell me about the mini warehouse issue. You mentioned that this guy wanted to put the mini warehouses downtown. DL: In downtown. WM: That would essentially create a dead zone.

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DL: A dead activity zone, yeah. WM: So walk me though the process of; he comes up with the proposal and you all DL: No we came up with it. He had an attorney. Her name is Judy James. She came in there slapped it down, refused to meet with us and never told him that we wanted to meet with him. We went to the re zoning. There were no discussions. There was nothing. We had to fight it flat out [and] kill it. Beca those appened to be community. But warehouses, what do you want? Will you have lunch with me? Can You see the product. WM: So he had this land that he wanted to develop and you a ll suggested some other DL: Listen, our community plan will let you do this and this and this. (Actually, back u this is part of our activity center. The problem that Cliff had was that the property he has is crossed by a railroad. As soon as you cross railroad tracks, the property i because of safety issues. They got to cross railroad tracks just whatever. So he decided on a lot of little office buildings. And every one of those people [bought] their little building and he keeps it up WM: So it worked out DL: Something that the community needed. Something for him. Nobody complained

PAGE 15

about those [offices]. Well not going to help your community. WM: Right. DL: He filled needs for the community. number of rooftops in a three mile radius lane highway running though the community that brings an enormous amount of traffic. The y restaurants. I put the word out. Two yeas ago (three years ago?) Lutz Civic Association hosted a meeting. We brought the community and the de velopment community together in one big meeting and said, And, God bless them, they went out for a year and a half and tried. But because of the restaurants here sooner or later. WM: Tell me about the development community. Who are they? DL: Anyone from land use attorneys to planners to land owners to homebuilders. I mean I know a Are there some blac

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But for the most part, they just have c lients that want to develop their property. They found, in certain communities they can come where you can talk to [the community] and Lutz is one of them. And if we hate it at your own risk buddy! ork for them, financially, they go away. If it does work for them, we have success. So what Look at Dale Mabry from County Line Road to Van Dyke Road. Then look at it from Van Dyke south. WM: DL: What you will see is green open space, very light land uses along Dale Mabry and Lutz. Because we have a Dale Mabry Corridor Plan, on top of our Lutz Community Plan. We said o n Dale Mabry, you have three intersections that [we] need [to have] community they go. And for twenty center that was in our commercial node. Have other things been developed out of those three nodes? Yes. Swimming pool instruction classes, [plant] nurseries, very low [impact] offices, a bank. Low key, low impact [structures], which can be done, accordin g to the plan. But what you see along that first five miles [south from there] turns to pure concrete chaos, advertising signs nightmare. that Dale Mabry Corridor Pl an again, updating it after twenty five years. have people that at least understand The process is so complicated Bill. The normal guy out there does not have the time to dedicate [what it takes to] understand this complicated process. It takes a few community leaders to learn, to share, to guide, t o help. Okay, there I went. Back in

PAGE 17

active and wrote a water bill connecting water planning to land use planning. Does that sound familiar? It bombed big time that year. Bom me in the Senate. Johnny Bird?? believe it or not, sponsored it in the House. It died. The next year another legislator picked it up and kept with it. In 2005 we finally got a comprehensive water p happen. state thing every year local state, local in Tallahassee this last session because our board of EPC would not allow the ir staff to defend themselves. So coincidence. So I started to become pa rt of the planning [process] and the positive solution versus reacting all the time. me forty hours a week at some point. I understand the system. I have a passion for the system. profit [that] gives me a little bit of money. But it gets my knowledge out there. If people would understand when you wait for the bulldozers to come in, if you wait for the re gh to just put words on paper. been in effect than fighting re zonings. I have to now defend our plan to our government because they want to interpret it differently t han we intended. And being someone who e committed and I need to be committed. (laughs at her own pun)

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WM: No, I was going to ask how can you explain your passion for this. What drives you? What motivates you to take this on? DL: When I first started it was my responsibility. I took it very seriously as president of the association, okay? I educated [myself] and for n ine years it was my duty. When I started and walk blindly down the road with it. No! All long the way I was questioning. Why? the question, who answers the question? How do we fix it? How do we make this better? How do we do this? world because it is a c know that, unfortunately? Because of that, every case is unique. I have fine tuned what I do in my legal profession as a paralegal to trial preparation and trial attendance. aralegal. I will go in right toward a trial; help an attorney organize a system in the trial. Help write the briefs, the laws e a hands on, really making a difference. about comp plans, which is a law. We realized whoa! Okay, I k now how to play legal games. I know how to play with laws and process. So I started leaning more and more and more and asking more questions. As I was being shoved aside, just keep on. You just keep on and keep on and I forced myself to tables I was not in vited to. And after awhile I made friends and [was] accepted. So it takes a lot of tenacity. And now I guess the passion is I see solutions all over the The political will of elected officials right now doe s not want to see it and it is frustrating. We hit a very bad period where the pendulum swung [in] the wrong direction. It hit its owards the middle, back to where most people sit, which is moderation.

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WM: Common sense? WM: But you were a paralegal? DL: Oh, yes, that helped me. Everything is a legal process. Everything is legal, so it helped me tune right into that. WM: Okay. DL: Of course my thirty problem with a land use issue [we can ask And then when I got to Tallahassee my people skills and my leadership skills really developed during my presidency of the civic association. I was learning that I had t o stand in front of boards all the time. I had to stand in front of people and talk. I was on nervousness). I could hardly speak I was so nervous. I would just stumble a ll over the place. My speaking skills, my comfort level [and] my knowledge base [have greatly improved]. Now I stand in Tallahassee in front of Senate and House committees. I give them m a line of scare stories. I give them facts [that] they can verify. that kno w how to play the game. And I am doing everything I can to share that not hopeless. Work with me in Tallahassee. We had an enormous e mail thing going up in Tallah assee this year. My group went to their groups that went to their groups. It scared the heck out of those legislators. It was what we have is the community. L utz, Hillsborough County, re electing is killing this county right now and the city and the state.

PAGE 20

control growth. ct it. WM: Okay, well direct it. Okay. Who are your allies in the community? Who are the DL: Civic groups, civic organizations. WM: But how would you describe those pe ople? Something hit them in their back yard. We all, we all start as NIMBYs [Not In My Ba ck Yard] in the citizen world. Every one of us start out as Not In My Back Yard. Every one. it in my back yard for personal reasons. It was because we were going to spend millions and screw up the character of an entire area, over a school. Schools are supposed part of the community, not destroy a community. They were doing that. Again, things have changed. WM: Well you say their number. We start connecting. We keep together] ten years of connections. working people um managerial people? people to they see that a ngers them to learn more and try to fix it. And when they realize how complicated it is it sucks you in like a vacuum. I mean truly, civic activism is a huge machine.

PAGE 21

byss which I still angry] and throwing it across the room. (laughs). I know how to fix it and I see the greed, the stupidity the nonpublic That is a good exam ple. glut of money and spent it like drunken sailors. Absolutely they did! When t hey should and spent it as fast as they could. Shame on them! public, and all of the things that we hold dear to this community. Our planning, our uff going straight down the toilet right now. Thanks to this County Commission we have in power. They are consistently now trying to get rid of the EPC, the Environmental Protection Commission, trying to get rid of the planning commission. Trying [to get r id of] anything that is putting the littlest speed bump in the road for a permit or development. insane to ask any developer to go to four places to get wetlands looked do that in a normal business world. We would not ask you to go four separate organizations to look at the same thing in different ways. (thumps table for emphasis) that. Absolutely, it makes good business sense. But it needs to come down to the local level. citizens have the most power, making sure our land use stays as local as possible. When we allow the state to take over and to oversee and manage, you lose control of your community. So these community planes are very important and that, we as citizens take back our land use in Hillsborough County. We have to. Our future is a t stake, not just in Lutz, but in this whole county. Oh! Thonotosassa, their comp plan, talk about bad land use. Jim Norman [wants to put]

PAGE 22

the comp plan! That comp plan say there will not be any significant growth out there for and restaurant [out there]. That is not what our law says you can do, Mr. Commissioner. So and change the law. You see what's going on? We've got absolute personal agendas going on now. (sighs) WM: So these people are just trying to increase their own wealth? DL: And for a handful of people, who give their campai gns that are helping them move into higher office. Commission. Jim Norman is our of this stuff is. They are following bad leadership. bad leadership. So our land planning is under attack right now. Our whole land use [system is under attack], every part of it, from environment, to planning to implementation to just oversight. aries. DL: Right now the biggest one seems to be our government, the bulk of our elected officials. I can tell you that [the] staff are our allies. Staff in the county and the city, they really want to do the right thing. [With] the politics and the p ower above them, they really amazing thing. And none of them will blow the whi because the commissioner got to him. our Consti

PAGE 23

Our executive, legislative and judicial branch. trator directly under the power of our County Commission. It says in the charter, she is separate. But our commission hires and fires her. So how separate do you think she is going to be? Our county attorney, directly under the control of our commission. Now how independent and objective is she going to be for the good of the populace, when her paycheck and her job depends upon the County Commission? We have an internal auditor, [who] answers only to the BOCC [Board of County got a built in ex hatchet job person to the whim of the county commissioners. And people wonder why everything is falling apart? ion and our courts. taxes name the issue e agenda, money majority. WM: Would you want to comment on the goo saying anything want [to say]. But I was thinking DL: Well all I can tell you is what I see and I see Rose Ferlita and Mark Sharpe fighting to the death to try and do what is right and what common sense dictates they are two against five. There is a block of four votes now, all the time. private interest block. Block. WM: The Jock Block? DL: Think of the three athlete commissioners. The three that have got athletics involved, You can figure it out, if you think a bout it and see who they are.

PAGE 24

WM: But you were telling me that you ran for office growth issues. So tell me about that. such thing in Hillsborough County), but it was basically the northern part of Hillsborough County. I lost to Ken Hagen. WM: And you were running for? DL: County Commission. WM: Okay. Homes and everybody i pushing it from the way I can do it. I was asked again to run in 2004, this time county wide; which I did. I ran against Mark Sharpe. Mark beat me by 30,000 votes. Joe Redner was in that race as an independent, or no party, I think he was no party back then. And he took 40,000 votes. [You] do the Mark Sharpe and I have become friends but we talk to each other. He listens to my perspective. And yo are there for you to listen to the public and weigh your vote, before you go in. Just do it. n against This last election he was up for re oing on the right [track]. Protect the public. Protect our County They are weakening our land use laws. They are weakening they tore out the livable community a whole element. Here we are at the state level, the County Commission.

PAGE 25

The County Commission ha s instructed, years ago, we need to clarify in our comp plan. We need to really let the development community see what it is communities want. So The planning commission spends three years, gets pulled out the sidewalks stuff, out of that part of the plan. We pulled out the road part. SO everything is one place in the comp plan to show you how to create quality of life communities. (gasps) [There was] no public hearing! In a workshop the Board of County Commissioners Commission sa have a public hearing on it. So, again, the land use stuff, right here in Hillsborough County, our whole quality of life elf interest; Commissioners sitting on that board. Ten years ago I would have pointed the City Council of Tampa and said (in They are wonderful compared to this bunch. I mean the C ity Council is finally doing public [service]. I mean, getting a grip and doing the right thing, to get to the solutions we talking this stuff out. de of the talk to each other. Do not do not talk to each other, in Tallahassee. environmentalists, community leaders and business leaders. www.c4rg.com ). We reply all. For example, on Friday I sent and e

PAGE 26

want Coalition for Responsible Growth to get involved with this Environmental I knew I had developer full. m going for it. we bring some kind of solution forward? How do we offer some kind of something, other than grid doing. If you look at the papers we hav e written, they are very common sense, matter of fact, not aggressive activist in your face dealing with in the real today. WM: Let me ask a little bit about your campaign. You said you ran on responsible growth issues? DL: No, I mean growth management, control I mean just understanding the growth issues and knowing some of the things we need to do to start moving forward. And we have not moved forward in Hillsborough County in over ten years. WM: Tell what were some of the things that you felt they needed to do. stopped two referendums [that were] trying to ask taxpayers what they want. xpayer. Ten years they have stalled now. Because we now have very strong concurrenc abry.

PAGE 27

way beyond what they are capable of handling. When we did the growth managem ent law in 2005, we put seven amendments on that as the Coalition for Responsible Growth. It was perfectly clear. If [the road] is failed, no permit. Right now, what we have in Hillsborough County, is a moratorium on 75 roads. How fees. So now what they are do You know it would be a lot easier not to blackmail the development and say Ant they know what that cost is. Bill, they know what the costs are. They refuse to put it out there. They refuse to listen. ecause then they are going to have to react to it. Do you know two years ago Kathy Castor, when she was sitting on the County Commission, supposedly a vision for 20 years. Build it out. I want to see what this county looks like if we actually took that comp plan and built it out. Bob Hunter had it ready a year ago. Jim Norman has refused to allow it in front of the Board of County Commissioners for over a year now; absolutely re fused to allow it on per house, on transportation alone. We need to increase the transportation impact fees. The real cost of a house is in the twenty thousands ve The inequity of the cost of new growth coming in, and them paying their f air share subsidize all the new growth. (Thumps table for emphasis.) We have now, as tax payers, s that will make them pay impact fees. basically put them on the spot at re zonings. I see them.

PAGE 28

add a lane. Do this. Do now, is fix problems that were not fixed to begin with. We have created a taxed subsidized mess in growth in this state. WM: The tax subsidizes are subsidizing the developers? mean? It means it adds to their profit. My friend, when I found out that developers were making 40 percent p rofit 40 percent profit! They work. Everybody else gets an 8 10 percent profit margin. You get belo w forty projects. WM: Okay. Well, tell me about the Committee for Responsible Growth. DL: Coalition. WM: Okay, the coalition. DL: I know, we almost called ourselves a committee. What about it?

PAGE 29

WM: Tell me how it got started. You talked earlier about linking up environmentalists and development people, but tell me about that, because it sounds like an interesting DL: Uhm. We want the bottom line is you should see my board. When I say hugging, tie themselves to a WM: [Chuckles] represent those f our, they also come from Plant City all the jurisdictions in Country, Keystone, City of Tampa, Ruskin, Wimauma, They are coming from all different perspectives. [They come] from different neighborhood perspectives, community perspectives and business perspectives. They are a micro cosmism of what is truly going in front of elected bodies, whether it is at the state level or the local level. t get people up in Tallahassee to talk to one another and kissing buddies right now. The hope is to hash this out through virtual conversations on e mail and come up with something everybody can live with. And believe it or not Oh Lord to be a fly on the wall at some of these conversations developers Blah Blah. other directly but they do get into it every once and a while. ow to go forward. I personally think we were very successful with the school impact fee issue that came up last year. We got right out in front on that issue. Go look at the paper I wrote on the suggestions on how to do the school impact fee, the various t verbatim. So they are listening. People out there are listening.

PAGE 30

WM: Okay. The future historian who accesses this interview, where can they find the paper you wrote? n my website. I keep all papers, they just go into the little archive. You just go www.c4rg.com WM: Okay. And can you site other examp groups together? DL: Oh, in Tallahassee all of the time. WM: Okay. DL: All the time. I mean, we are on wetland issues, environmental issues, growth management issues. For example, not this session but the sessi on before, a bill trying to basis. They wanted a standard, across the board state impact fee. My paper originally said we would support something so you can go fr om one county to going to work this way. state mandated fee, the state is going to get the money. that because they are giving me industry secrets. But it helps me understand what the bigger issues [are]. ped kill it.

PAGE 31

And believe it or not, through all of the e mails and all the discussions, somehow, every resp onsible growth. on something we know will work. WM: It would be interesting to see the environmentalists and the developers DL: Interesting e mails. WM: I can imag ine. at feeling is real. wrong. Tha And from a business perspective there are things the development community is asking sometimes run way too far we will support something to a point. But do I support the way they are doing it? Absolutely not. So we the people of Hillsborough County will have to take back our county, if we want doing what it is doing, with environmental protection, shutting out our voices, going against process [and] not If we let them get away with this we will never be able t o control this board again. And

PAGE 32

WM: You said something earlier about, and if you want to comment on this you can, but with the coming election that people feel there is going to be more public involvement in governm ent? backyard, their street; if it touches their lives, they come alive. We have hundreds of hours we spend defending the community on a positive basis. Let that one littl Honey, that will be all over the newspaper. So every time you see my name in the paper positive way What I learned as a candidate is that only 10 percent of the people who vote have actually read a newspaper, [learned something from] TV, gone to a meeting [or can] remotely tell n. That means you have 90 percent of the voters blindly going into the polls. Blindly! I think the tax issue this year, people will not be happy. People are not happy. The aring it Put that together with trying to tear up our environmental protections and our planning WM: It is kind of frightening. history for your archives my friend. We need to come back in about a year after the next election and see what we do. (laughs) ked you about? DL: I guess hopeless, Bill. I think for the purposes of your research and your paper the public stopped engaging itself years ago. We did it. happen. But when we took civics out of our schools, when we

PAGE 33

stopped teaching our kids civic pride, the American government; why you should vote, any other generation to be running to the polls when all they see and read in the enough to pay attention. (First you need their attention.) And then we have to educate them over the next few mo nths. seen it for years. something like that. of a corporation for growth management. to find like minded people, good people who want to change for the right reasons and not So stay tuned. WM: Okay. Well that sounds like a good place to conclude. And Ms. Layne, let me thank shared with me in thi s interview will be deposited in the Special Collections of the studying land use issues in the Hillsborough County area. DL: Well thank you. I am really honored the opinion. End of Interview


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