Pasco County Property Appraiser Mike Wells gave a talk at a recent meeting of the East Pasco Networking Group, and offered a look at the county’s current growth — and what may be in store.
Wells, who has been in the appraiser’s office for 10 months, reminded the crowd that he’s continuing to learn.
Still, he offered a number of statistics that document the county’s rapid growth, and at least one forecast that expects it to continue to expand for the foreseeable future.
He pointed to a study from the Urban Land Institute that predicted the county’s population could reach 1 million by 2040.
Whether or not that turns out to be true, the county is in the midst of a significant growth surge, Wells told those gathered for the meeting of the East Pasco Networking Group, at the Sarah Vande Berg Tennis & Wellness Center, in Zephyrhills.
“There’s just so much in the pipeline, it’s crazy, it really is,” Wells said. “You can see the growth; it’s unreal,” said Wells, who served years on the Pasco County Commission before being elected to his current post.
The county, which measures 868 square miles, has 301,000 parcels, Wells said.
It is currently averaging about 800 single-family permits a month, which equates to about 10,000 new permits for 2021-2022.
The county’s just value recently was measured at more than $52 billion, which is 13% more than last year.
Wells noted that 69% of the county’s property value is tied to residential, followed by commercial (7.4%), tangible personal property (6.6%) and government (4.2%).
The key to managing the county’s growth is for county leadership to continue to push for “smart development” through the use of Mixed-Use Trip Reduction Measures, referred to as MUTRM, he said.
That strategy calls for a mixed-use compact development pattern, incorporating various ways to get around.
He pointed to the Epperson Crystal Lagoon community in Wesley Chapel, as a solid example of this approach.
There, residents have access to most of their needs within the development, he said.
“They don’t have to come out any main roads. They can shop in there, work in there, play in there. Kids go to school in there, eventually. That’s the kind of communities we want to see.”
Although Pasco has been working to bring more jobs to the county, it continues to be a bedroom community, Wells said.
(In fact, County Administrator Dan Biles recently reported that 60% of the county’s workers travel to surrounding counties to work — up from the previous rate of 50%.)
But Pasco continues to work toward shedding its bedroom community image and has made progress in attracting some large employers.
TouchPoint Medical Inc., for instance, has a new $24 million global headquarters in Odessa. There also has been a number of Class A offices added, as well as warehouses and retail facilities.
Moffitt Cancer Center also will have a significant impact, when it establishes its 775-acre campus near the soon-to-open Ridge Road extension and Suncoast Parkway.
Moffitt’s Pasco campus will include lab, office and manufacturing space. It’s also expected to be a magnet for biotech and life sciences enterprises and innovation.
Job creation estimates vary, but Wells said it could yield as many as 25,000 jobs over its 20-year build-out, he said.
“Moffitt is going to be larger than downtown Tampa,” Wells said. “That should pretty much sum it up. It’s crazy. It’s exciting.”
Pasco’s apartment dilemma
Wells also shared his views on the county’s temporary moratorium on applications seeking new entitlements for apartment development.
The moratorium applies to new applications in an area primarily in Land O’ Lakes and Wesley Chapel.
Pasco County Commissioner Mike Moore advocated for the temporary moratorium, to allow time to find out how many apartments are already entitled and how many are needed to meet market demands.
He has argued that approving too many apartments will lead to a glut on the market, which eventually could result in derelict buildings and associated problems.
Wells said he understands the moratorium decision, but emphasized there is a need for apartments in certain parts of the county.
“I feel the market decides those things, but my opinion doesn’t matter anymore, and I respect the board with the decision that they’ve made, and it’s not easy,” he said.
He continued, “It’s just about trying to do it a little smarter. You look at these apartment complexes, they don’t get any breaks. There is no homestead. They pay full tilt. They take up less space (than housing developments).”
Wells also pointed out apartments lead the way in construction value “by a pretty substantial margin.”
In fact, six of the 10 highest-valued commercial properties in the county are apartment complexes, he said.
- Lantower Cypress Creek: $75.29 million
- Lotus at Starkey Ranch: $71.93 million
- Horizon Wiregrass: $71.56 million
- Tapestry Cypress Creek: $62.05 million
- Trinity Exchange: $61.69 million
- Lantower Asturia: $56.45 million).
Six of the largest commercial sales in the county also have been apartment developments, Wells said.
- Pier 8 at the Preserve: $100 million
- Lotus at Starkey Ranch: $87 million
- Tapestry Cypress Creek: $78.49 million
- Parc at Wesley Chapel: $53.57 million
- Worthington Court: $15.61 million
Updates within property appraiser’s office
Elsewhere, Wells shared the various changes within the property appraiser’s office since he was elected to replace Gary Joiner, who won the post in 2016, but chose not to seek a second term.
So far, Wells said, there have been updates to the website’s parcel database, based on input from industry professionals.
Property record searches now yield more detailed information, such as school versus non-school values and the sinkhole status, including the exact year a sinkhole was stabilized or remediated.
Wells also is working on making the website easier to navigate, noting: “The idea should be less clicks, not more,” he said.
Additionally, Wells has hired some employees from the private sector, including a licensed surveyor — something new for the office.
Wells said his office is required to inspect every property on a five-year cycle.
His 54 staffers handle about 5,500 parcels apiece, he said.
He also noted that his homestead fraud investigators added $69.5 million back to the tax roll in 2020 — equating to roughly $1.2 million in recovered revenue.
“There’s been a lot of things that we’ve found,” Wells said, noting one scheme that is used involves landlords having renters sign up for homestead exemptions on rental properties.
“There’s been a lot of things that we’ve found,” he said.
The investigative group works closely with the county’s municipalities and the sheriff’s office to track down illegal activities, the property appraiser said.
Published December 01, 2021
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