Hillsborough County approves $$ for Bass Pro Shops improvements - WFLA News Channel 8

Hillsborough County approves $$ for Bass Pro Shops road improvements

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TAMPA, FL (WFLA) -

Hillsborough County Commissioners have approved the controversial plan to spend $6.25 million dollars on road improvements, to lure a Bass Pro Shops store to Brandon.

The plan passed by a 6 to 1 vote. Commissioner Kevin Beckner was the only member of the commission to vote no. He said he supports the arrival of Bass Pro Shops in the Bay area, but he did not believe it was appropriate to spend public money on the plan. He believes the company is large enough to pay for the necessary upgrades itself.

"We should be making strategic investments, not to build retail, but to build infrastructure and businesses that will move our community forward," Beckner said.

Becker said he worries this vote sets a bad example and will lead to other businesses showing up at the commission meeting, asking for similar help paying for infrastructure.

"This is taking us back to the 1980s, and we are in real trouble," he said.

But in the end, no commissioner agreed with Beckner. Even commissioners who have been opposed to the deal for months, changed their minds.

Mark Sharpe said it comes down to economic development.

"It's not simple, it's not easy," he said. "It's not always clear but on the whole, I think it's something I can support and will support."

Before the vote was taken, Bass Pro attorneys said that if commissioners voted no, they would take their planned store elsewhere.

A standing-room-only crowd showed up for Wednesday's vote, with people on both sides of the issue in attendance.

Small business owners have long opposed the plan, saying they did not receive any help when they opened their businesses, and they worry the new retailer could put them out of business.

Bill Place, owner of Ace Golf in Brandon and Riverview,, said it's not fair to spend tax money to lure Bass Pro. He and other small businesses didn't receive help, and their large competitor shouldn't either, he said.

He said he's not surprised the commission sided with Bass Pro but thought the vote would be much closer.

"Bass Pro has spent a lot of money lobbying this for a long time. So I guess it doesn't surprise me that much that they caved," Place said.

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