Pasco County Property Appraiser Mike Wells recently shared an informative look at the county’s broadening tax base, during a gathering of the North Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce.
“I’ve got to be honest. There has never been a more exciting time to live in Pasco County, to be part of Pasco County,” said Wells, who served on the Pasco County Commission before being elected to his current post.
His comments came during a Sept. 20 luncheon, well before Hurricane Ian caused untold damage to communities in southwest Florida and continued its path of destruction across the state and into South Carolina.
Wells provided a brief recap of how Pasco has been evolving, and how it has become part of the discussion when companies consider moving to the Tampa Bay region.
“The team of commissioners and myself did a great job for six years to help the landscape get where it is today, quite frankly.
“We used to be a bedroom community. That’s all we were. All we did was build houses, quite frankly,” Wells said.
The vast majority of Pasco’s developed parcels remain residential, but companies are increasingly aware of what Pasco has to offer, he said.
Pasco needs a diverse tax base to generate the taxes necessary to provide the services its residents need, Wells said.
In recent years it has been making progress on that front, with an influx of new companies and commercial development, Wells said.
“The companies are coming here. They know we’re open for business. A lot has to do with us working together as a region,” he said.
He thinks much of that is due to a shift in attitude about regional cooperation.
“Eight years ago, we really weren’t a team.
“When I took over commissioner in 2014 — it wasn’t ‘us,’ it wasn’t ‘we,’ — it was ‘I, Pasco County’ against Hillsborough County, against Pinellas County — trying to poach.
“Now, we actually work together as a team — what a concept, with the EDCs (economic development councils), with the chambers.
“We can all do more together — with Moffitt (Moffitt Cancer Center’s planned Pasco campus) — being an example.
“We’re close to the port, we’re close to the airport. Why would somebody not want to come up here to Pasco County? The cost of living is less,” Wells said.
Pasco has 300,000 parcels and a population of roughly 600,000, Wells said.
“Our growth is among the fastest in the state,” he added.
The county’s preliminary just value for 2022 is more than $66 billion, an increase of nearly 17%, he said. New revenue to Pasco County was roughly $90 million.
There are “exciting new projects and there’s plenty in the pipeline for years to come,” he added.
He shared a breakdown on Pasco’s businesses.
The vast majority — 86% — have 25 or fewer employees, he said.
Nearly two-thirds have been in business for more than 10 years and 43% of Pasco businesses are owned by county residents.
Future prospects look bright, too, he said. About 36% of businesses expect to add employees within the next three years.
Also, slightly more than one-third of Pasco businesses are expanding at locations within the county, or are building on new Pasco sites, he added.
Wells is a big proponent of small businesses and of local businesses, too.
It used to bother him greatly when a Pasco company would lose out to a larger business from outside the area because it had a bigger footprint and could offer to complete the work at lower costs.
The county board addressed that issue by passing a local vendor preference policy to help local companies be more competitive when vying for county business.
As Pasco moves forward, it expects to attract more employers, the property appraiser said.
He pointed to 47-million square feet of planned development in the pipeline, and 78,500 jobs.
“We have enough pre-approved permits for 75 years’ worth of houses, so they’re coming,” Wells said.
Consideration of requests for future development in the county must take into account how the projects will affect the balance Pasco is trying to achieve, Wells said.
“Every decision we make for the next acre of land is important,” Wells said.
Apartment construction bolsters Pasco’s tax base
Wells said he’s aware the topic of multifamily development has been controversial, but he noted: “Multifamily leads the way on new construction value for 2022, as it did last year.”
He’s aware that his former colleague Pasco County Commissioner Mike Moore championed a temporary moratorium on such development.
Moore sought the temporary measure to give the county time to gather information to make sure the multifamily market isn’t being overbuilt. He warned his colleagues about the potential negative consequences in the long-term, if that happens.
The multifamily moratorium is now over, but Moore continues to push for job-generating uses, rather than apartments.
Wells said, in general, he’s not in favor of moratoriums.
“I’ve always been a proponent of the market decides — not me,” he said.
The property appraiser also noted Pasco is attracting more health care development.
“We’re seeing exciting growth, as you know in Wesley Chapel, with Orlando Health, BayCare expanding,” he said.
He also expects the county to become more competitive in attracting industrial growth.
Its access to the interstate system and to rail — along U.S. 41 and U.S. 301 — provide an advantage that not all counties enjoy, he said.
He’s particularly enthused by what lies ahead in the development of Moffitt Cancer Center’s Pasco County campus.
Moffitt’s planned 775-acre campus, larger than the footprint of downtown Tampa, is in the heart of a developing community, which will be known as Angeline, Florida.
The scale of Angeline, which is south of State Road 52, near the Suncoast Parkway, is massive. At build out, it will have tens of thousands of residents, who will live in a community that is focused on providing the latest in technology and having an emphasis on wellness.
Plans call for the ‘city’ of Angeline include high-speed internet connectivity and an extensive trail network that will enable people to get where they want to go, without having to jump into a car.
Plans call for schools, research clinics, health care facilities, a community farm and thousands of residences, ranging from apartments to luxury homes.
Moffitt’s Pasco cancer center is expected to become home to leading-edge cancer researchers.
“This will be a global center of innovation. A huge asset to our region,” Wells said.
Pasco Top 10 properties, by value
HCA Health Services of Florida: $103,156,579
Tampa Premium Outlets: $84,376,243
Lantower Seneca Tampa LLC: $81,445,912
PAC Wiregrass Ranch LLC: $79,178.815
FRMF Odessa LLC: $71,994,778
Odessa Apartments LLC: $71,477,965
Pasco Cypress Creek DST: $62,152,747
Trinity Lakes Apartment: $61,732,459
Lantower Asturia Tampa LP: $60,055,988
Addison at Sunlake LCC: $58,377.067
Top five Pasco County taxpayers
Duke Energy Florida: $513.5 million
WREC Electric: $331.4 million
Frontier: $106.8 million
Pasco Ranch: $102.5 million
Source: Pasco County Property Appraiser Mike Wells
Published October 19, 2022