Despite requests from some Raintree residents, the City of Temple Terrace will not close Soaring Avenue, the secondary entrance to the Raintree community.
The city council decided Tuesday that blocking off the street, which is located adjacent to an unincorporated area of Temple Terrace, wouldn’t be in the best interest of the community. However, council members asked the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office to consistently police the location and other unincorporated areas that border the city. They also asked city staff to monitor the city’s partnership with the county.
The issue came to light Jan. 3 when Raintree residents Walt Williams and Mike Holtcamp asked the city to install a gate at the Soaring Avenue entrance or close it completely, forcing motorists use the main entrance on Fowler Avenue.
During that meeting, City Manager Kim Leinbach told the council that city staff would research possible ways to decrease crime in the unincorporated area near Soaring Avenue between 56th and 59th streets, which belongs to Hillsborough County. He described the area as an isolated part of the county that is difficult to police.
After researching the issue, Leinbach said he did not recommend closing the entrance.
“This isn’t a New Tampa development,” he said. “Everybody, like it or not, overall is invited to utilize our facilities—our Rec Center, our parks, our streets. From a governmental standpoint, in my opinion, to bar access is contrary to the very nature of our business overall.”
The city also did a traffic study, Leinbach said, to address resident speeding concerns. Between Dec. 20 and 27, a total of 6,274 vehicles entered or exited the community on Soaring Avenue, Leinbach said. Only 59 were identified as exceeding the 30 mph speed limit.
“The police and fire departments do believe that closing Soaring Avenue—even with a gate—would affect public safety and hamper time frames,” Leinbach said, adding many units go into the community on Soaring Avenue instead of the main entrance at Fowler Avenue because it’s the fastest route.
The ultimate solution for the city, Leinbach said, would be to annex the property. “It’s kind of a no man’s land there anyway for the county,” he said. “I think to provide services there is difficult for the county for such a relatively small area that’s remote to them, and I think it would be a win-win situation between the two entities.”
But he acknowledged that annexation would take time and suggested that the best short-term solution would be to maximize the city’s partnership with the county for assistance as it affects Temple Terrace residents.
Maj. J.R. Burton, commander of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s District I office, told the council that the county began crime reduction efforts throughout District I, including the area near the Soaring Avenue entrance, two years ago. He said the sheriff’s office saw a 26 percent reduction in crime in that area in 2011 compared to 2010.
“We work very closely with the Temple Terrace Police Department,” Burton said, adding he’s known Chief Kenneth Albano for 25 years. “Our detectives have an intelligence call with the Temple Terrace Police Department every day talking about crime.”
During the meeting, Raintree residents spoke both for and against the closing of Soaring Avenue. Councilwoman Mary Jane Neale, who lives in Raintree Manor, sided with those who rejected the idea.
“Unfortunately, I can’t vote to close the other exit,” she said. “I use it a lot.”