Developers revive Epperson Ranch with Crystal Lagoon

The interchange connecting Overpass Road to Interstate 75 couldn’t come soon enough.

With the housing market seemingly healed — at least as far as Pasco County is concerned — developers want to bring thousands of homes to an area known as Epperson Ranch, complete with a retail center, and America’s introduction to something known as Crystal Lagoon.

The new Epperson Town Center Project near Overpass and Curley roads, is expected to have the first Crystal Lagoon in North America, a massive water project that creates aquatic activities in areas where water at this quality might not be available. (Courtesy of Crystal Lagoon Corp.)

The new Epperson Town Center Project near Overpass and Curley roads, is expected to have the first Crystal Lagoon in North America, a massive water project that creates aquatic activities in areas where water at this quality might not be available. (Courtesy of Crystal Lagoon Corp.)

“It would be the first of its kind in North America,” said Pat Gassaway, president of Heidt Design, one of the representatives behind the developer of the proposed Epperson Ranch Town Center. He shared details of the recreation area with members of the Pasco County Development Review Committee last month, and is scheduled for the Pasco County Commission Nov. 5.

“They have chosen to implement it here in Pasco County, and let me pause to let that sink in,” Gassaway said. “It actually looks better in person than in the photographs, and that rarely happens.”

Crystal Lagoons Corp. is a Chile-based land development company that can turn dry land into what they call the world’s largest swimming pools. They can cover acres of land, typically at a depth of at least 8 feet, and allow for both swimming and water sports, which might not already be available.

The company’s first Crystal Lagoon in San Alfonso del Mar covers 20 acres, and is more than a half-mile long. The cost to build one is said by the company on its website to be “10 times less” than that of a similar-sized golf course, and consumes half the water a typical conventional park would use.

The town center was part of a much larger development of regional impact in the area where Overpass and Curley roads meet. Once the housing market crashed, however, the project went dormant. Now new developers have stepped in, looking to break some of the elements apart, but still stay close to some of the original development plans of bringing thousands of people into that part of Pasco County.

The town center alone would be on nearly 103 acres and include 256 townhouses, 200 apartments, 209,000 square feet of commercial space, 50,000 square feet of office, and 100 hotel rooms.

Two other pieces of the Epperson Ranch project also were in front of the committee on Wednesday. They include what is known as Epco Ranch North, where 1,795 homes on 1,051 acres are planned.

A third piece, known as Epperson Ranch South, would have 1,516 homes on nearly 590 acres of land.

Both residential plans are smaller than originally proposed. The northern part was supposed to have 1,811 homes, while the southern portion initially had at least 120 more homes than the current plan.

“Standard Pacific Homes is proposing to build a very upscale community here,” attorney Clarke Hobby told county officials of the northern plan. “The price point we’re dealing with here is substantially higher than we would otherwise see in this marketplace.”

However, Standard Pacific has met some resistance from neighboring property owners who aren’t too keen on what the developer wants to do with King Lake just off Curley Road.

“We are concerned about the density,” said Arnold Becken, who owns 12 acres of land off Kenton Road, which borders the lake. “No matter how many docks you have in there, if you have 1,700 residents living there, you’re going to have a mammoth amount of watercraft on that lake.”

Hobby, however, told Pasco County administrator Michele Baker last month he had not yet had a chance to meet with residents there to hear their concerns, but planned to do that before commissioners were asked to approve it.

“When they stand up in front of the board” for the November meeting, “I want them to say that Mr. Hobby is a nice guy,” Baker told the attorney.

There is no timeline on when construction would begin on any of the project, but the major parts may wait until the interchange at Overpass Road is completed. The county has eight years to finish the $55 million project, which will primarily be funded by federal dollars.

The county commission is taking up Epperson Ranch at a rarely scheduled Wednesday meeting, Nov. 5, beginning at 10 a.m., at the Historic Pasco County Courthouse in Dade City. The Epperson Ranch projects are scheduled as part of a group of other public hearings beginning at 1:30 p.m.

Published November 5, 2014

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