The Pasco County Commission approved a modification to the master plan for the Seven Oaks community, allowing a project for 320 apartment units and 25,000 square feet of commercial space.
The project is planned for a 10.6-acre site, off Ancient Oaks Boulevard, about 225 feet north of State Road 56. The development site is across from Sam’s Club.
The board’s approval is a reversal of its 3-2 rejection of the request on Jan. 9.
Board members Mike Moore, Jack Mariano and Ron Oakley voted in January to deny the request, while Chairwoman Kathryn Starkey and Christina Fitzpatrick dissented.
That decision was challenged and went to mediation.
Through the mediation proceeding, the application was updated to increase the minimum retail/office commercial entitlement from 20,000 square feet to 25,000 square feet.
The revised application also includes a new site plan, building size and vertical parking.
Other changes include pedestrian safety and traffic-calming features.
The applicant also agreed to work in good faith with Sam’s Club to extend walkway safety improvements onto the retail store’s property, if Sam’s Club will allow that work to be done.
The county board’s approval of the revised master plan resolves the dispute between the county and the applicant over the board’s previous denial. The applicant also has agreed to defend and indemnify the county from any third-party claims arising from the board’s approval.
The board voted 3-2 on Oct. 11 to approve the request.
Oakley said he was satisfied that changes to the plan addressed his concerns, and joined Starkey and Fitzpatrick in supporting the request.
The vote came after extensive debate among board members and strenuous objections by Seven Oaks residents and the Seven Oaks Community Development District’s attorney.
Moore and Mariano said the county must preserve job-generating uses to provide jobs for Pasco residents so they don’t need to commute elsewhere for work.
But Starkey, Fitzpatrick and Oakley said additional housing is needed to meet the county’s increasing demands, particularly as it looks to the future and jobs that are on the way.
Applicant Keith Gelder, of Stock Luxury Apartment Living, wants Seven Oaks to be the location for his first Pasco project.
During testimony at a previous hearing, Gelder told the county board that his company does “high-quality, large amenity, lifestyle-driven projects.”
Plans for the Seven Oaks project include a resort-style pool, multi-story buildings with commercial uses on the first floor, a dog park and other amenities.
Several speakers testified against the request at the Oct. 11 meeting, offering a litany of reasons for why the proposed project is not a good fit at the planned location.
They said they don’t oppose apartments, just the proposed location of this project.
They noted plenty of land is available that’s already zoned for apartment development, even within the Seven Oaks community.
Instead of changing the commercial designation on this site, they said the board should encourage the development of professional buildings that could serve the area’s demand for office space needed by small businesses.
Critics also noted the area already is congested and the planned project will make that worse.
They predict the neighborhood will experience more cut-through traffic, which will reduce the community’s desirability and diminish property values.
Patrick Mullen, one of those opponents, listed a multitude of objections.
In addition to various legal and technical objections, Mullen offered some basic reasons for opposing the proposal.
“This project is still too big for this property,” Mullen said.
“Development is a privilege, not a right,” he added.
And, “Denial should remain undisturbed,” Mullen said.
Opponents also told the board the reasons they rejected the proposal in January remain valid.
Attorney Joel Tew said his client’s proposed project represents the “poster child” for the type of urban infill mixed-use development encouraged by county’s policies.
He reminded board members the request “is not a rezoning for new density or new entitlements.”
The Seven Oaks master plan already includes entitlements for 1,726 multifamily units, so the request doesn’t increase the overall density, Tew said. The approval of the Seven Oaks master plan also took those traffic impacts into account.
Tew characterized the proposed modification as essentially being a map change, within an approved master plan. He also said the requested change is being made under the approved land use equivalency matrix, which requires the impacts to be on a 1:1 basis.
Despite the board’s approval, the issue might be far from over.
After the vote was taken, Moore asked David Goldstein, the chief assistant county attorney, whether the decision could be appealed.
Goldstein said it could be appealed by a third party, and typically an appeal must be filed within 30 days.
The chance of an appeal being resolved in less than a year is slim, the attorney said.
Published October 19, 2022