Connerton in early planning stages for 150-bed hospital

Florida Hospital is inching closer to eventually building a new hospital in the Connerton community after developers there got initial approval for a 150-bed facility.

Pasco County’s Development Review Committee gave the initial OK last week for Connerton to begin planning its second phase of the project, which could include 3,600 more homes, 190,000 square feet of retail and 725,000 square feet of government space.

As Connerton continues to grow just north of Land O’ Lakes, entrances from U.S. 41 and State Road 52 will have to be improved, Pasco County officials say. (File Photo)

As Connerton continues to grow just north of Land O’ Lakes, entrances from U.S. 41 and State Road 52 will have to be improved, Pasco County officials say. (File Photo)

The revised plan adds another 110,000 square feet of medical office space, bringing that total to 200,000, doubling the nursing home beds to 100, and adding 150 beds for a hospital.

Despite the move, Connerton representative Stew Gibbons tells The Laker/Lutz News there aren’t any immediate plans to build a hospital at the Land O’ Lakes Boulevard community, located just south of State Road 52.

“What we’re doing with now is securing approval of the entitlement limits so that can decide what they can put there, depending on the market at the time,” Gibbons said. “It’s a great location, especially when Ridge Road goes through, which will give you access across the county. “

Florida Hospital — which operates local hospitals in Wesley Chapel, Zephyrhills and the University of South Florida area of Tampa — owns about 34 acres of land in the county, purchased by University Community Hospital Inc., before that hospital chain was acquired by Florida Hospital’s parent. It was part of a $5.1 million land deal the hospital put together in October 2007, just as the housing market was starting to come apart.

For the second phase of Pasco’s “new town,” Connerton is looking to focus a little more on multifamily, with about a third of the proposed residential in that phase taking that route. The first phase was primarily single-family homes, with approvals for nearly 4,000 homes.

The second phase also would include Connerton’s employment center, which will be a mix of government, office, industrial and medical.

“This is an example of how Connerton always has been designed,” said Andrea Zelman, an attorney who represents the community. “We are on the road to creating those jobs.”

But to do that, some of the roads in and around Connerton will need to be upgraded. That would include turn lanes for the entrances off U.S. 41 and State Road 52, and also finishing the link with Collier Parkway that has been on the drawing board for years.

Pasco’s chief assistant county attorney David Goldstein put emphasis on the stretch of Collier Parkway, proposed to link from Ehren Cutoff, calling it a “crucial piece of roadway that we cannot ignore much longer.”

“I wanted to make sure the county people up here understand the importance of doing something about Collier Parkway,” Goldstein told the committee. “We have to find a way to build that missing gap of Collier, and get that connected up to the employment center.”

However, not everyone is for expanding Collier. Stephen Coogle, who owns a 6-acre home on Ehren Cutoff bordering the Connerton project, said neighbors to the development deserve more attention to ensure they don’t lose value in their homes.

“We need to have buffers,” Coogle said, which could come primarily by preserving existing tree lines that border his property. Also, drainage from a Collier Parkway extension would need to be properly taken care of, so that it doesn’t flood his property instead.

“Our property and wetlands are not being taken into consideration,” Coogle said. “Progress needs to happen, but we should not have to sacrifice what we paid for.”

Gibbons said Connerton developers are working to address concerns of neighbors, but that many of Coogle’s concerns are premature.

“We are in the timing and phasing process, and we haven’t even designed anything yet,” Gibbons said.

When that process does begin, surrounding neighbors would be notified, and have a chance to express concern while those plans are drawn up.

Roadway improvements will be funded in part by a nearly $30 million contribution by Connerton, along with another $7.7 million in county incentives.

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