Pasco County’s burgeoning development is evident.
Subdivisions are springing up. New businesses are moving in. Roads are being built. And, there are more places to shop, eat, learn and have fun.
A 20% growth in population between 2010 and 2020 has created new opportunities, but also presents challenges — and, Pasco County Administrator Dan Biles gave a big-picture look at the county’s growth during the North Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce’s Nov. 2 breakfast meeting.
Pasco’s population, estimated at 464,697 in 2010, grew to 561,891 in 2020, according to U.S. census data.
“A 100,000 (people) is a good-sized city itself,” Biles observed.
Most of Pasco’s growth was spread out throughout the county, with 60% of the county’s population now living west of U.S. 41 and about 40% living east of it.
Biles addressed the opportunities and the challenges created by Pasco’s swelling population. He also touched on Pasco’s future prospects, during his talk on the Porter campus of Pasco-Hernando State College, in Wesley Chapel.
Although the county has New Port Richey, Port Richey, Dade City, Zephyrhills, San Antonio and St. Leo within its borders, roughly 92% of the county’s residents live in unincorporated areas.
Residents living outside of municipal boundaries rely on the county to deliver the types of services that cities normally provide, Biles said.
And, it takes a sizable staff to deliver them, the administrator said, noting the county’s 2021-2022 budget authorizes 3,200 positions.
The budget includes additional personnel for two new fire stations that are coming online and beefs up its development services office to address the staggering demands.
Permitting activity has been on a steady climb.
“October was actually the first month we actually dropped below year-over-year in 18 months,” Biles said.
He also noted: “We have consistently, since last July, issued about as many or more single-family permits every month than Hillsborough County.
“By the end of August, we had issued more single-family home permits in 2021 than we had issued in all of 2020. And that’s with builders tapping the brake and metering themselves.
“Yes, the market is crazy.
“Part of this is happening because of the reception that builders and developers are getting south of us,” the administrator said.
The Pasco County Commission has worked to create a welcoming environment for the development community, the administrator said, noting “not necessarily to compete with Hillsborough, but (so) that the development community would prefer to be in Pasco, than they would south of us.”
The rapid growth has impacts.
“Have you tried to get a permit from us recently? It’s not easy,” Biles said.
Besides residential growth, there’s been a significant uptick in commercial activity, too.
“Commercial is up 40% year-over-year, and that’s the one we want, right? Because they’re not homesteaded, from an ad valorem tax perspective. They actually help pay for the services we deliver to single-family.
“Our site plan approvals have doubled, year-over-year.
“The MPUDs (master-planned unit developments) almost doubled year-over-year.
“Even the stuff that’s in the pipeline isn’t slowing down.
“We’ve issued over 14,000 utility connection permits in the last 12 months, which is double the number of single-family permits,” he said.
Sales tax revenues are up, too, coming in at 15% to 20% higher, compared to a normal growth rate closer to 3%, year-over-year, Biles said.
While some of the increase can be attributed to taxing internet sales, most of it stems from consumers making more purchases.
Biles also noted that revenues based on increased property values went up 10.8%, and that’s including homesteaded properties, which are protected from significant property tax increases.
The county has finally recovered from the impacts of the Great Recession, when property values plummeted.
“It took us 12 years to get back to 2008 values. We finally got there in 2019-2020,” Biles said.
Biles told the crowd that Pasco has added 23,000 jobs during the past 12 months, and that’s not counting the positions that remain vacant, as employers search for qualified candidates.
The county’s tourism is on the upswing, too, he said.
“We almost doubled the amount of visitors last quarter from the quarter last year,” he said.
“We went from 236,000 to over 400,000 visitors in that quarter, and that’s when we were still in the wave, starting to come down the backside of the Delta COVID wave,” Biles said.
Looking into the future, Biles sees great things arising from Moffitt Cancer Center’s planned campus on 775 acres, in the upcoming Angeline community in Land O’ Lakes.
“For perspective, the corner they (Moffitt) have at Suncoast and Ridge Road is larger than the Central Business District of Tampa,” Biles said.
The campus is going to be a mix of profit, nonprofit, research and health care — and is expected to generate 14,000 jobs, an estimate that Biles thinks is probably too low.
The Moffitt campus, Biles said, will have significant consequences.
“This is a generational type thing. Forty and 50 years from now, our kids and grandkids will think of Pasco, and they will think of the cancer research — and maybe cure, that would be nice — that happened in Pasco County.”
He expects Moffitt to submit for permits sometime within the next six months.
Revised November 17, 2021