The Pasco County Commission is continuing its discussions regarding new rules for residential development of small lots and for townhomes.
The issues were thoroughly discussed at the county board’s May 23 meeting and the board expects to take up the issues again at its first meeting in July.
In the interim, county staff and stakeholders will continue to refine proposed rules, and individual board members are expected to go on tours with representatives from the Tampa Bay Builders Association (TBBA) to see what can be achieved with design and landscaping.
County board members have been pushing hard for developments with less concrete, and more green space and trees. They don’t want rows of houses or townhomes that all look the same.
Instead, they want the use of architectural details, landscaping and improved parking to create more aesthetically pleasing neighborhoods.
A new law passed by the Florida Legislature has preempted local control over architectural features.
The county board can’t dictate them, but developers can voluntarily include them. They don’t have to, but the board doesn’t have to approve 40- and 50-foot lots, said David Goldstein, Pasco’s chief assistant county attorney.
County board members have made it clear that they want developers to build a better-looking product, if they want permission to build on smaller lots.
Nectarios Pittos, director of the county’s planning and development department, said county staff has been meeting with stakeholders and have discussed issues involving lot standards, enhanced landscaping requirements, rights of way, driveways and parking.
At the same time, the development community has been busy coming up with standards they believe will address the county board’s concerns.
County board members have expressed displeasure with the appearance of communities where houses are on 40-foot lots.
“Why don’t you just do away with the 40-foot lots and make it 50s?” Commissioner Ron Oakley asked. But the county board member acknowledged that he’s aware that lots that are 40-feet wide can work in some communities.
Commissioner Kathryn Starkey said she won’t approve 40-foot lots for houses with the garage out front, but would approve them when the garage is out back.
Rear-loaded homes are more expensive to build.
“I am on record. I cannot support a 40-foot front-load,” Starkey said.
But she added, efforts continue to address the additional cost of that type of development. For instance, talks continue on the required width of alleys to accommodate fire trucks.
Commission Chairman Jack Mariano told the stakeholders if they are building in other jurisdictions that have different rules, the county would appreciate that information.
In general, county staff has been looking at the possibility of minimum lot widths of 45 feet, or 42 feet with enhanced landscaping requirements.
Martin Frame, incoming president of the TBBA, told the board that the hope is to have a minimum lot width of 42, with enhanced landscaping requirements.
“I’d love to be able to tour each one of you through some of these projects, so I can show you real-life examples,” he told board members.
Increasing the minimum lot width size to 45 feet, from 40, would result in a reduction of about 10% to 15% of the lots in a community, depending on the configuration, Frame said.
“You’re probably talking about $15,000 of costs that would be added for each additional lot by expanding this out to a 45-foot lot, versus the current 40-foot lots today.
“That cost goes directly to the consumer, so there’s an affordability aspect to this,” he said.
“With the 42-foot lot, what we’re trying to do with the enhanced landscaping package, we’re trying to give a very attractive street appearance and create a nice streetscape, which I think is a lot of the issues that the board has had over the past couple of years when a lot of these communities have been built.
“A lot of the examples that I’ve seen have got sparse trees, sparse landscaping, a lot of parking – the townhomes, where all you see is concrete and cars.
“What we did here was create some standards, over and above where we are today,” Frame said.
Requiring shade trees — not ornamentals — will have a greater visual impact, he said.
Frame told the board that many stakeholders have been involved in drafting proposed standards and they spent about 200 hours in the effort.
Commissioner Seth Weightman told his colleagues he’d like the board to decide what the side yard setbacks should be, rather than leaving that open to negotiation, project by project.
Doing that would eliminate a lot of the back-and-forth, Weightman said.
The board also discussed a need to change townhome standards.
Many of the steps recommended for improving the appearance of townhomes are the same steps as those suggested for single-family developments.
Attorney Clarke Hobby, who specializes in land use and zoning issues, said “we’re hoping that some of this greenspace and landscaping stuff will find its way into the code very quickly.”
Hobby also thanked the stakeholders who spent many hours trying to come up with standards that address the board’s concerns.
Chairman Mariano also expressed appreciation for the stakeholders’ efforts.
“I think we’re all trying to build a great county here, with the best products we can,” Mariano said.
Published June 07, 2023