Rural Keystone's character threatened by Tampa's sprawl

- Where do you go when you get a month-old pig?

"We thought they'd be understanding of a pig in here," laughs Jose Noboa as he stands inside the Feed Depot, at Gunn Highway and Mobley Road in northwest Hillsborough County.

This store has what you need for where you live.

"My friends that live in St. Pete, when I tell them I live in the middle of nowhere, they come and say 'You really live in the middle of nowhere!" says 22-year-old Katie Register, who lives not far away.

But as rural as it is, Keystone and neighboring Odessa are just minutes from the city, and the city threatens to edge out what this area was.

"It was all citrus. It was dirt roads and citrus," remembers Mike Dennison, who says he drove a farm tractor back and forth to Clearwater when he was a boy. 

Now he fears one of the last remaining groves will be sold off.

"I was spraying and I started crying. To see it go away is just hard on me," he says.

Keystone is close enough to eventually become suburban Tampa, but some there are working to see that it doesn't happen.

"This is just the beginning of the conversation," says Joshua Butts, vice president of the Keystone Civic Association.

Butts believes incorporating Keystone as its own town could give local residents more control over preserving the area's rural character. He says it would also keep more tax dollars in the area and pay for better fire and police protection.

"It could be a gem, not just to the people here, but to add value to the community," says Butts.

He says it's in the region's best interests to keep the Keystone area rural and its environment clean because of nearby wellfields that supply millions of gallons of drinking water to Tampa.

Any move to create a new town is likely years away. Studies would have to be done, residents would have to vote, and the state would have to approve.

For now, people there say they enjoy the best of both worlds.

"It's very quiet, it's nature, but it's really convenient," says Noboa.

He can have a pig in a 20-minute drive to the airport. 

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