The Pasco County Planning Commission has recommended approval of a rezoning request to clear the way for a project known as Pasco Town Center, on roughly 1,000 acres at the southeast quadrant of Interstate 75 and State Road 52.
The request now goes to the Pasco County Commission, which has final jurisdiction on land use and zoning matters.
This won’t be the first time the county board considers the project.
It approved an economic incentive deal on June 7, with Columnar Holders, relating to the proposed project, which includes 4 million square feet of industrial space; 725,000 square feet of office space; 3,500 housing units; 400,000 square feet of retail and 300 hotel rooms.
The agreement terms provide a $55.8 million package for Columnar, funded mostly through property tax rebates, as specific milestones are met.
The development company also will install key roads and utility connections beyond the Pasco Town Center Property – providing $70.1 million in public infrastructure, with no direct cost to taxpayers, David Engel, the county’s director of the office of economic growth, said at the June 7 county board meeting.
Pasco Town Center is within the Employment Center area of Connected City.
Joel Tew, attorney for the applicant, described the project to the planning board at its July 21 meeting.
“We’re talking about thousands and thousands of jobs,” he said.
“We must use at least 55% of the land — in this case, we’re talking over 1,000 acres of land, so we’re talking about over 500 acres of land must be allocated and used for corporate business park, targeted business or industrial use,” Tew said.
“We then must use at least 20% for residential uses, but they can’t be single-family detached. So, everything has to be multifamily or townhomes to support the employment center.
“Then, finally, we have to use at least 5% for support commercial uses for the employment center,” he said.
Planning Commissioner Chris Williams, who also is the director of planning for Pasco County Schools, noted that the residential entitlements are double what had been previously proposed.
That raises the issue of the potential need of a school site within the project site, Williams said.
Tew responded: “For the record, we understand that concern.”
He also noted that there’s still a significant amount of land that has not yet been committed to a particular use, so he is confident that a suitable site could be identified.
At the planning board’s meeting, Engel explained the significance of the Pasco Town Center project.
“It’s vitally important for our economic future because it is the heart of our economic development area, on I-75 and (State Road) 52, employment node,” he said.
It will provide infrastructure — the public spine roads and the master utility lines—for the employment center area, as well as to areas to the east, he said.
The Office of Economic Growth wanted to ensure the elements of the economic development agreement were carried through to the master-planned unit development (MPUD) level, so it has worked closely with the county’s planning department to ensure that happened, he said.
County planners recommended approval of the request.
Neighbors seek to protect their tranquility
Carol Roth, who lives on McKendree Road, appeared before the planning board, along with her daughter and granddaughter. All three women raised concerns about the impacts the sizable project will have on their way of life.
“When we came into this area, it was beautiful and serene,” Roth said.
“I feel it is the obligation of Pasco County government to protect me and my environment and my land, as you allow for growth for business and other people. I’ve lived there over 50 years, I built that home and I’ve enjoyed what I have.
“I’ve enjoyed its inherent beauty. I don’t know if people are familiar with rural Pasco, but it’s a distinct beauty,” she said.
She also noted that her property has a variance for an air strip and wanted assurances that wouldn’t be affected, if future plans call for a new school nearby.
Roth said she’s not against development, she’s against the impacts that come with this type of development.
“What happens to the little people who own 20 acres right across the street?” she said.
Her granddaughter noted that the family built their home “with their own sweat and blood.”
She expressed concerns about impacts on wildlife in an area where gators walk across their property, dozens of turkeys hang out there, and there’s sandhill cranes and other creatures.
Safety is an issue, too, she said.
Roth’s daughter noted that all of the development will create light pollution, resulting in a loss of access to the night sky, and the sense of stillness and awe they currently enjoy.
Brad Tippin, the county’s development manager, said the county doesn’t anticipate any conflicts with the landing field from future development. He also noted that plans call for realigning McKendree Road, which would push traffic further away from the family’s home.
Tew said that whenever development occurs, it will be required to meet buffering, setback and landscaping requirements.
Planning Commissioner Jon Moody observed: “We can’t stop Tampa from extending northward. I don’t think there’s anything we can do to stop that kind of growth. The population continues to grow, the people up North keep coming. And, from the looks of things, it looks like it’s going to keep coming.”
Moody said he understands the family’s concerns, noting he won’t pay for streetlights in his neighborhood because he enjoys the night sky, too.
“But I can’t guarantee that the next 100-acre tract over or the one after that is not going to get built on; I don’t own it,” he said.
He also noted this project is “going to bring a lot of jobs, probably desperately needed jobs.”
Planning Commissioner Jaime Girardi agreed: “Growth is coming. It’s inevitable.”
At least now, both Girardi and Moody said, the county is planning for growth.
Planning Commissioner Williams added: “My family has been here for five generations, here in Pasco County.”
He, too, enjoys the rural nature of where he lives, Williams said.
But he added: “I can’t dictate what my neighbor decides they want to do with their property.”
Planning board chairman Charles Grey added: “We’re aware, keenly aware, of growth and how it affects areas that we once thought were going to be that way forever.”
This project has been thought out and will have considerable benefit, Grey said.
“There’s going to be a downside as far as you’re concerned because of the growth, but the upside is, at some stage, you may want to sell that property, and when you do, it’s going to be worth a lot more money, because of it,” Grey said.
Published July 27, 2022