The Pasco County Commission has approved a land use change that will clear the way for consideration of a wide variety of commercial uses on two lots totaling 3.47 acres at Galen Wilson Boulevard and Ridge Road.
The board approved the request at its Sept. 20 meeting, despite its planning staff’s recommendation for denial. Planners based their recommendation on an effort to preserve the land for future industrial uses, rather than strip commercial development.
In rejecting the planning staff’s rationale, the county board followed the lead of the Pasco County Planning Commission’s recommendation, which also disregarded the planners’ recommendation and voted to approve the request.
Planning staff cited a number of county land use policies in recommending denial.
They argued that the current light industrial designation should be preserved because it has the prospect of producing more and higher-paying jobs than commercial uses would generate.
But Steve Booth, an attorney representing the applicant, noted that as it stands now, the land already can be used for support commercial uses, as part of the industrial development.
The problem is that the current list of potential uses in the support commercial category doesn’t mesh with market demand, Booth said.
By changing the future land use category to commercial, the list of potential uses would be broader, he said.
Booth also argued that since commercial already would be permitted under the current designation, the planning staff’s argument about preserving the land for industrial uses doesn’t hold up.
Nectarios Pittos, the county’s director of planning and development, said: “There are uses in C3 (support commercial) and in I-1 (light industrial) that can locate on the two parcels that are before the board today.
“The developments that are happening to the south in the same industrial park are the same size buildings that you might expect on the two parcels that are the subject of this proposal.
“The key thing to remember is that while the corridor itself is overwhelmingly commercial, there is limited industrial in the West Market Area, in general, and in this particular area.
“The Harbors Redevelopment Plan calls for the need to prevent further retail strip development along major corridors and to provide a healthy mix of uses and create a community destination,” Pittos said.
“The conversion from IL to COM would reduce the mixture of uses along the corridor, and Ridge Road has to be thought of as a corridor because it does connect now to the strategic intermodal system, which is the Suncoast Parkway and beyond to U.S. 41, eventually.
“This area is sort of key now to the West Market Area and the preservation of industrial land,” Pittos said.
Pasco County Commissioner Ron Oakley said, “I understand that this board gave staff a direction for these kind of properties — and not to lose anymore industrial.
“This board actually gave them direction that we didn’t lose employment,” Oakley said, which is why the staff is opposed to the proposed change.
Booth told the board there currently are deed restrictions on the land that prohibit it from being developed as apartments, a service station or for storage uses.
Commission Chairwoman Kathryn Starkey said, “The one thing that gives me a little heartache is the school district next door and the amount of traffic that some uses might generate.”
But she added: “The chances of you getting industrial up front there, I don’t know. And, they’re allowed to do commercial anyway, so my thought might be to make sure … I would be in favor of making sure it’s not the commercial uses that take a lot of traffic.”
County Attorney Jeffrey Steinsnyder asked Booth if his client would be willing to restrict commercial uses, but Booth made no commitment to do so.
Steinsnyder told the board: “Once this site is granted commercial, it’s granted commercial. When you change the future land use from IL to COM, it’s COM.”
Commissioner Mike Moore weighed in: “I like the deed restrictions that are already there. You can’t put a service station there, anyway. You can’t put residential. If you want to put a McDonald’s in there, go for it. It’s right next to Home Depot. Go for it, giddyup.”
No one from the public commented on the request.
The land use change clears the way for the applicant to seek a rezoning to accommodate whatever type of commercial use that is permitted under the county’s commercial category of its long-range plan.
Published September 28, 2022