Pasco County’s Development Review Committee has given its first stamp of approval to a pilot program to create a futuristic, technology-based network of communities across more than 7,800 acres in northeast Pasco County.
But that’s just one step in the review process.
State legislators approved the Connected City in 2015, and selected Pasco as the site for the project.
The Pasco County Commission also gave the concept for Connected City its OK, via a resolution.
The county’s Development Review Committee voted on Oct. 13 to recommend changes to the county’s long-range land use planning and development codes to lay out the legal framework for Connected City.
Additional votes by the review committee will be needed on a range of issues, including financial and road plans. Those issues are expected to considered in November.
But those are actions are merely recommendations. The Pasco County Commission has the final word.
If Connected City gains needed approvals, it is expected to have considerable impact on the county.
It is projected to have about 96,000 employees, and about 37,000 homes and apartments when it is entirely built out, which expected to take about 50 years.
“In the long run, this is going to make Pasco a premier county,” said Ernest Monaco, the county’s assistant planning and development director.
Not everyone agrees with that vision.
Some residents who live within the district worry about losing the rural lifestyle of northeast Pasco to Connected City’s urgan lifestyle.
“I’m not willing to give up my slice of ruralness,” said Jennifer McCarthy, who lives on Kenton Road.
McCarthy opposes plans to turn Kenton into a four-lane paved roadway, that she says likely will turn a local road into a heavily travelled thoroughfare. There also will be harm done to wildlife in habitats on both sides of Kenton, she said.
“Wildlife is not going to be able to pass through here,” McCarthy said. “It doesn’t make sense to ruin conservation areas to make it a pass through for all the subdivisions to the north.”
County officials suggested a willingness to look at the issue.
“Let’s explore it and find the answers,” said Pasco County Administrator Michele Baker.
Connected City has its fans, too.
Margaret Tingley, president of Tingley Systems, Inc. in San Antonio, described Connected City as “a dream come true.”
“You’re centrally located to all of Pasco County. It’s a great place to show what you can become,” she said. “Technology is the wave of the future. The new Connected City is the wave of the future.”
Efforts to craft a master plan have taken about 17 months.
“I’m actually proud we spent 17 months trying to do something different,” said attorney Joel Tew, who represents Metro Development Group. “This was not an accident. We purposely selected Pasco County over competing counties.”
Connected City is expected to become the first gigabit community in the nation that is built from the ground up.
Metro Development is partnering with Pasco County on the first neighborhoods that will be built in the Connected City network.
Boundaries generally are Interstate 75, State Road 52, Overpass Road and Curley Road.
Construction is under way on Metro Development’s first project within Connected City. Developers are building a mixed-use community at Epperson Ranch. An approximately 7-acre, manmade “Crystal Lagoon” will be a centerpiece of the project.
Though state lawmakers created a 10-year pilot program, build out within the entire special district will take an additional 40 years.
The district’s development plans will be locally controlled, with a minimum of state or regional oversight.
Estimates are that local review from application to permitting and construction will take only four months to five months. Not everything must be in place before early phases of construction get underway.
For example, Monaco said, “Developers won’t have to wait to decide where every shrub goes before beginning mass grading on their sites. This makes us more competitive. It’s a good thing.”
Published Oct. 19, 2016