The Connected City Corridor is a state-initiated pilot program adopted by the Florida Legislature in 2015, which spurred a special planning area in Pasco County — bounded by State Road 52, Overpass Road, Interstate 75 and Curley Road.
The county adopted the Connected City plan in 2017 — envisioning a place that would harness the power of high technology, generate jobs, offer myriad housing choices and create special gathering spaces.
Beyond being connected through technology, it also calls for connections through roads, trails and sidewalks — making it easy for people to get where they need to go — by walking, running, bicycling, riding on golf carts and in vehicles.
Landowners opt into Connected City, which gives them more flexibility in their land uses, additional incentives to receive mobility fee credits, an expedited review process, and an exemption in transportation analysis.
The plan caps the number of single-family residential units that can be built and encourages higher densities near employment-generating areas in the plan.
Two of the largest developments approved and under development in Connected City so far are Epperson and Mirada, with other projects in various stages of approval or planning for the area.
The Pasco County Commission wants to take a closer look at how Connected City is playing out.
Commissioner Seth Weightman raised the issue during the county board’s Oct. 24 meeting.
Weightman said he understands that all of the single-family entitlements in Connected City are used up, leaving only multifamily options remaining.
“I think it’s time — and after talking to some of the stakeholders, I think it’s time we take a look at the overlay and understand how much property is left and what’s exactly the multifamily entitlements that are remaining and if they’re appropriate to be in those spaces where the land is left,” Weighman said.
The county board member said he wants to make sure there’s a balance and that there are products people will want. He wants to prevent an oversaturation of rental, he said.
Commissioner Kathryn Starkey responded: “Just because it’s multifamily doesn’t mean it has to be standard, Brandon-style apartments. Multifamily is brownstones, duplexes, quadruplexes. “They can be owned. Garden apartments, garden villas.
“There’s so much product that’s in multifamily, that in my opinion, we’re not seeing.
“And, better layouts, especially when you’re in an area that’s supposed to be a village concept, and walkable, and we’re getting big parking lots with three-story, four-story apartment complexes. And, that’s really old-style, and I just think we can do better.”
But Brad Tippin, the county’s development review manager, told the board: “I was involved with Connected City from the beginning. The design is this, it’s not so much village-oriented, like Pasadena Hills is. This is a very specific design that is very high density along I-75. The intent is vertical. There is an urban core. So, multifamily units of a vertical nature are really necessary here, to achieve those densities and get that pattern.
Tippin added: “The urban core was supposed to be kind of like a mini-downtown style, with vertical — lots of different uses, and the business core stretching out.
“The lower-density piece is the piece over toward Curley Road, as you go out toward VOPH (Villages of Pasadena Hills), toward that more village-concept area.
“The second piece of that puzzle is that Connected City is its own special dependent district. It’s actually based on its own financial plan. And, that financial plan requires these types of units and this level of density to actually be able to achieve the different things it is obligated to pay for, in the financial plan.
“So, that’s one of the hurdles we would have to find a way to overcome to consider that.
“The most important consideration, I believe personally, is related to the financial plan and the way that it is set up. If we were to reduce this to allow more single-family units, we would reduce the density to such an extreme that it would be difficult to meet the financial plan obligations.”
Weightman countered: “I’m more worried about the quality of life and the quality of the product that’s there.
“We’re a good portion of the way through this. I think it would be wise that we take a look at the land that is left and understand the makeup of it, and what product is appropriate where, within this project, to ensure that the quality of this project doesn’t erode away, as we come across the finish line.
“I’ve heard from stakeholders in the private sector that probably think it would be a good idea to take a look at it. It can’t hurt. It’ll take time, but there’s some learning lessons that can come out of this exercise, and trust, but verify.”
Tippin suggested having a workshop.
“It has been a long time since Connected City came through. There are some new board members that might appreciate that, if we could go through it step-by-step and actually have a little bit more time to discuss it.”
Joel Tew, a private land use and zoning attorney, told the board that he worked with county staff and a consultant from the outset, when the plan was being formulated.
Tew said that he’s aware that some private developers have decided not to opt into Connected City because there were no single-family entitlements available and they didn’t think that multifamily was appropriate for the site they wanted to develop.
Tew said a workshop likely would be valuable for the board, if it can make time for it.
Before that workshop is scheduled, research will be done to provide a report on what has been entitled in Connected City, and where, and what entitlements are remaining.
More information about Connected City is available on the Pasco County website at PascoCountyFl.net.
Published November 08, 2023