Pasco County and its consultant have held a series of public meetings around the county to help assess where the county is, where it wants to go and how to get there during its visioning process for its Pasco 2050 plan.
Hayat Mazili, the county’s project manager for the Pasco 2050 planning effort, and Nicholas Hill, a consultant from Inspire Placemaking Collective, covered many high points in a session with the Pasco County Planning Commission.
Priorities that have been identified include:
- Stronger tree preservation regulations
- Cultivating wildlife corridors
- Protecting productive aquifer recharge areas
- Increasing efforts to monitor and increase the county’s water supply system
- Increasing transportation efficiency, by improving crossings over U.S. 19
- Identifying opportunities to increase the interconnectedness of Pasco’s roadway systems
- Fostering greater transit, sidewalk and trail connections
Hill also noted: “Whether or not they were in the rural area, or the urban area, we also heard tons of folks say, ‘Protect rural lands and character.’”
Participants offered ideas to achieve that, too.
- Limiting increases in maximum permitted densities within the rural areas
- Maintaining the Northeast Rural Overlay
- Working with agricultural property owners to develop incentives for placing portions of their property in conservation
- Evaluating and refining standards for solar farming
“They also wanted a robust park system by 2050,” Hill said.
Their suggestions for making that happen include:
- Identifying land acquisition opportunities for new parks
- Requiring the provision of on-site parks and recreation facilities for new large-scale developments
- Increasing the connectivity of multi-use trails
- Expanding programming catered to the county’s most vulnerable populations.
Other suggested priorities include:
- Working to eliminate regulatory barriers for redevelopment
- Seeking to strategically reduce minimum living areas
- Allowing additional housing types within select residential zoning categories
- Working with developers to make sure our most vulnerable populations have housing
A desire for vibrant and walkable spaces was expressed, as well.
Planning participants recommended:
- Working with developers to establish town centers
- Permit limited commercial developments close to neighborhoods
- Refining landscaping standards to match the character of the surrounding community
Planning process participants also shared scores of other priorities and strategies.
But, so far, the vision plan fails to identify costs for the various priorities.
Planning Commission Chairman Charles Grey noted: “Oftentimes, what the public wants doesn’t merge with what the public is willing to pay for.”
David Goldstein, chief assistant county attorney, asked the planners: “Is there a reason you didn’t ask the question, ‘Which of these would they be willing to spend taxpayer money on?’
“It seems like you’ve got a group of people over here saying, ‘We want all of these things,’ and to the chairman’s point, they all cost money. But unless you know which of these things they’re willing to put their money where their mouth is, I’m not sure how helpful it is.
“Are they willing to pay additional taxes to grow the park system?
“Are they willing to pay for transportation efficiency?
“Santa’s wish list can be 20 pages long, but there’s only so many things that Santa can afford.”
Planning board member Derek Pontlitz asked the planners: “Is there any reason why you couldn’t have a rough projection for costs for these things?
“One thing might be completely cost-prohibitive. Another thing might be pretty easy.”
Hill said there is an exercise that can be done that assigns values to different types of improvements and seeks public participation on setting priorities for expenditures.
Goldstein said it’s a good idea to plan for the costs: “Somebody needs to put a monetary reality check on our comp plan.”
Planning board member Jon Moody said the county needs to assess its resources, decide how it can better use them and then determine what infrastructure is needed to support them.
“We have to work with the resources that we have, not the resources we wish we had,” Moody said.
Planning board members noted that some desires that have been expressed are contradictory.
As planning board member Jaime Girardi said, “There’s a lot of competing interests. Someone will tell you that they want affordable housing, but they want big lots.”
Pontlitz noted: “A lot of the people who want to preserve the character are people that live here already, whereas the 40-foot lot buyers are people who are moving in from out of the area.”
It’s also important to recognize the natural growth of communities, Moody said.
Towns typically spring up around major routes of transportation, such as ports, rails, airports and highways, he said.
“Planning doesn’t happen just because we say, ‘This should be here because we said so.’ That’s not happening in the real world,” Moody said.
The planning board’s discussion was just one of many that are expected between now and the adoption of the 2050 plan.
The public will be invited to participate throughout the process, Mazili said.
“This is an ongoing conversation with the public,” Mazili said. “The comprehensive plan is for the community and by the community. We want them to be involved every step of the way.”
You can find out more about the process, planning efforts to date and to get involved by visiting Pasco2050.com.
Published October 25, 2023