Connect with members of your Keystone Community
We are passionate about our choice to live in rural Odessa, Florida. Let’s connect online to discuss ways to raise funds.
I want to share with you some news relating to the development underway in Keystone. While the project is ongoing and court hearings are being scheduled, I have received an update from Public Works regarding traffic control at the intersection of Racetrack and Patterson.
Due to the persistence of residents and our office, conditions at that intersection were reexamined and a justifying argument can be made for the installation of a 3-way stop. The installation has been authorized along with a pair of flashing beacons to be located along Racetrack alerting drivers as they approach the intersection. Procedure dictates that the installation will likely take a couple of months including sufficient lead time to educate motorists that routinely use that route. This may include the use of roadside message boards.
In the meantime, county staff is regularly monitoring site development to ensure compliance. Furthermore, the developer has been put on notice that enforcement as a result of any code infractions will be swift and to the fullest extent allowable under the code. I will continue to work alongside the community to help safeguard the area and residents from unwanted and unsafe intrusions. Hope you have a great weekend.
County Commissioner District 2
Hillsborough County recently approved a plan for the development of Keystone by the company Taylor-Morrison despite this plan violating several local laws and guidelines. On Aug. 17, residents brought a case to the Board of Commissioners to halt this project before it does irreversible damage to their community.
It’s past time that county commissioners such as Harry Cohen put a stop to this plan, as it clearly violates multiple local laws and guidelines.
Summarized, the lawsuit challenges the Construction Plan approval as inconsistent with the currently applicable comprehensive plans and alleges that the development, originally approved in 1991, should have proceeded under a Vested Rights Order pursuant to Development Procedure Section 5.2.3 and Land Development Code Section 11.02, or would be required to adhere to all currently applicable County codes and comprehensive plans.
What will it take to get the county commission to shut the site down until we can have our day in court? Maybe more flagrant disregard for the law?
“On Wednesday, residents repeated the allegations they had forwarded to the county previously. They said the contractor worked three months without a county permit; has worked earlier in the day and later at night than its permit allows; moved protected gopher tortoises improperly and stockpiled dirt mounds without permission.”
If there was ever a time to stand together, and showcase our community strength, THIS is the fight, our only fight, and the last fight to save Keystone!
The Keystone area, that we all sought out to be our community, because of its agricultural footprint and small town characteristics, is being threatened by developers with large urban developments (houses on 10,000sq lots). This is why residents of the community have come together to file a lawsuit in an attempt to hold the County to the current Keystone Community Standards.
We need Odessa residents and surrounding rural area land owners to join our rural community saving efforts. Taylor Morrison and Hillsborough County may have deep pockets, we have MANY more pockets and a country living HEART. If you LOVE the rural lifestyle and are able to help, this is the time to step up. Spread the word, share the website and lets stand up together to keep what brought us to Odessa, Florida!
Your involvement with contacting the Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners is working!
Going around the BOCC and not following the proper permitting process is NOT ADVISED
Taylor Morrison requested, and was denied, permits to work in the right of way on Racetrack Rd at night.
This night, they decided they didn’t need to follow the county’s rules
Please contact your county commissioners to ask WHY they are not willing to halt the Keystone development.
Help keep your community informed by displaying a yard sign or banner to ProtectKeystone.com
The main request of the Keystone residents is:
– Support this lawsuit, by contributing to the legal fund, blast our fight on social media, and asking friends and family to help too. Keystone has 2600 residents, if everyone contributes a little, there will be enough contributions for the legal fees.
– Review the documents linked on this website to become familiar with the details of the activities, impacts and injustices.
We MUST STOP the county from bringing in public utilities and crossing over into rural areas. Once public utilities enter Keystone, we lose. You can expect more new development, forced public utilities on Keystone residents, etc.
Here are a few highlights for a quick summary:
– 1990’s the land was rezoned for planned development housing (10,000 sq lots)
– Twenty years later, the development plan was set to expire, however the county extended it 10 more years.
– December 2021 – Taylor Morrison bought the 194 acres of land for about $24 million.
– December 2021, the county bypassed 15 known requirements to validate and approve this outdated plan, such as the Keystone Community Plan which requires 1 home per 5 acres.
– June 2022 – Lawsuit filed against the county
– June 2022 – Emergency injunction filed against the county
April 2020 was the height of the Covid pandemic. All through 2020 up to May 2021, Taylor Morrison was working on site plans, traffic studies, environmental impact studies and submitting all of this to the county. A few items were kicked back and forth for review and changes. Once the county assured Taylor Morrison everything looked good to them, Taylor Morrison purchased the Patterson Rd property for $23.5 million on Christmas Eve, December 24, 2021.
In February 2022, the bulldozers showed up. Researching the county information through OPTIX, the site where developers upload their plans and the county posts documents and permit information related to a development, showed a site plan for 194 homes on small lots with connections to county utilities. When contacting the county Development Services Dept and asking why they would allow utilities, much less that much density, in Keystone and the county’s own Rural Service Area, which requires well/septic and large lots, the county responded that the original Planned Development Zoning approved in 1991 was the legal zoning for those parcels and there was nothing they could do.
The original zoning document does mention public utilities, however, the final approval of the zoning states, “approval of this development order/permit does not constitute a guarantee that there will be public facilities in place”. When Development Services was questioned on this wording, they said they are interpreting this statement as the county is required to allow utilities.
At this point, we started throwing everything we could at the county to postpone the signing of the development order because once the order is signed, if legal action is required, you only have 30 days to file a lawsuit. We started looking into the environmental studies, the traffic studies, the site plans, FL law. Keystone residents started contacting the BOCC and the media.
Taylor Morrison was busy too. They started clearing the site. They started bringing in mountains of fill dirt, they started cutting down hundreds of trees. The county advised us Taylor Morrison was only doing some preliminary work prior to their permits being issued. When they refused to believe Taylor Morrison could be doing anything illegal, I hired a drone operator to come out and take aerial footage of the site. I then sent that footage to all of the county departments that had not issued their permits yet, every county commissioner and the media.
This action resulted in a stop work order and a fine of $310k for the illegal removal of trees. Taylor Morrison submitted a plan to the county of how they were going to replace every tree that was cut down illegally. The county asked them for a few tweaks to their plan. Taylor Morrison resubmitted the plan. The county approved it. Taylor Morrison is no longer required to pay this fine and the county signed the final approval for the development order on May 5, 2022.
The scramble to find a lawyer started months ago. Between referrals, calls to law offices throughout central Florida, almost all had legal conflicts with the county or Taylor Morrison, 32 lawyers were contacted. We then contacted Jimmy Crawford, an attorney in Clermont, Florida who has filed these types of land use challenges in the past.
We are suing Hillsborough County NOT Taylor Morrison. This is a very important distinction and less expensive. We are suing the county for injunctive relief NOT damages. This will be a bench trial NOT a jury trial. There is just the judge and the two parties, not a lot of exhibits or witnesses like a jury trial.
We are suing under FL Statute 163.3215 that prevents the issuance of Development Orders that are inconsistent with the adopted local government comprehensive plans, both Hillsborough County’s comprehensive plan AND the Keystone Comprehensive Plan.
We are arguing when the county adopted the Future Land Use Element (FLUE) of the Comprehensive Plan for Unincorporated Hillsborough County in 2008, the 1991 PD for this development site became inconsistent with Hillsborough County’s own growth management rules that they wrote and made significant changes to in 2008.
# 1: Not allowing intensive residential development outside of the Urban Service Area
# 2: Preservation of natural environment areas and ecosystems and the maintenance of the rural lifestyle without the expectation of future urbanization. (Remember the county’s public statements on how environmentally important this land was and their number one priority to purchase).
# 3: Limit public potable water and wastewater lines from being extended into the Rural Service Area, except under specified conditions. None of the exceptions to this prohibition are met by this project.
# 4: The project never established vested rights to the utilities. This is a process the county requires of old zonings to make sure they meet current land use and utilities requirements. Taylor Morrison never filed this application. Hillsborough County admits it was never completed.
# 5: The county’s approval of the development order directs new growth in the RSA in violation of their own objectives
# 6: Objective 4 of the county’s own code states “The rural area will provide for long term agricultural uses and large lot, low density rural residential uses which can exist without the threat of urban or suburban encroachment
# 7: Objective 4.1 rural area densities will be no higher than 1 dwelling per 5 acres
# 8: This density and utilities violates the Keystone Comprehensive Plan
And speaking of the Keystone Plan..did you know on page 10 it states, “no density credits will be assigned to wetland areas for new development”.
# 9: The county allowed Taylor Morrison to purchase mitigation permits and environmental credits for construction in wetland areas and the removal of trees.
Back to the county’s own rules
# 10: Objective 16.2 of the FLUE requires a gradual transition of intensities between different land uses
This site only has 13 residential lots bordering it, all greater than one acre in size. That accounts for 20% of the total property boundary. The remaining 80% of the surrounding property has no development whatsoever. By allowing 194 homes, the county is in violation of the 16.2 objective by not having a gradual transition
# 11: Objective 16.8 states the overall density and lot sizes of new residential projects shall reflect the character of the surrounding area, recognizing the choice of lifestyles. Again, the county’s own words.
# 12: Last one! Objective 8.2 Livable Communities which requires the county to only direct growth within the USA
The beauty of this FL Statute is, even though we have laid out these 12 points where we think the county is wrong, the judge only has to agree with one of them and we win.
So step one is complete. The lawsuit has been filed.
Taylor Morrison has been working on Saturdays to get ahead of this lawsuit. Pipes have been delivered to the site and blue flags have appeared down racetrack rd where they plan to connect to utilities; potable and stormwater will run down one side of racetrack rd and wastewater will run down the other side. Because we can not allow them to get a utility line to the site and because the county is dragging their feet on responding to the lawsuit, our attorney has advised filing an emergency order for a temporary injunction. This order will be filed this week. The same judge assigned to our case will preside over this proceeding within 10 days. If he rules in our favor, work will stop on the site. The county will file their response and we will be ready to start mediation in the hopes of a settlement. This is Step Two.
Step Three depends on what the county’s response is. It is very unlikely they will proceed directly to trial. I do not have a cost estimate for this scenario. However, please keep in mind, we are suing the county, not Taylor Morrison. The county attorneys are salaried employees and can not charge what private attorneys charge. If we settle, the agreement will include a clause that states everyone pays their own legal fees. If we win outright, the county will have to reimburse our reasonable legal fees. If they win outright, we will have to pay theirs.
Fundraising is our most important focus right now.
Please give what you can and give us some fun fundraising ideas.
We are passionate about our choice to live in rural Odessa, Florida. Let’s connect online to discuss ways to raise funds.