The Pasco County Commission has approved a rezoning that will allow a mixed-use development including a regional children’s hospital, a hotel, residential, commercial and office development.
County board members approved a rezoning request on 176 acres at the northeast corner of McKendree and Overpass roads to make way for the proposed projects.
Specifically, the approval allows:
• 1,275 multi-family dwellings
- 155,000 square feet of retail
- 150,000 square feet of office
- 250,000 square feet of medical office
- 365,000 square feet of hospital
- 250 hotel rooms
Clarke Hobby, an attorney representing All Children’s Hospital, said it should be a day of celebration for Pasco County because the hospital has selected to locate in Pasco.
But not everyone is overjoyed by that fact.
Tonya Riddlesworth, who lives next door to the planned development, spoke against elements of the mixed-use project during the county board’s Nov. 14 public hearing.
She told county commissioners that she wasn’t seeking a reduction in density, but did want the development to be staggered back away from her property to diminish its impacts on her quality of life.
She detailed a number of objections in a letter of opposition she submitted to the board.
In her letter, she wrote: “I am deeply troubled by the proposed addition of 1,275 apartment homes and a helipad in our community.”
She cited concerns about overcrowding in area schools, increased traffic congestion making the roads even more dangerous, and an incompatibility between the proposed uses and those that are already there.
“Multi-family homes are inconsistent with this rural farm area on a dirt road with chickens, cows, horses, goats, etc.,” she wrote.
Riddlesworth’s husband, Patrick Gant, also spoke out against the rezoning.
Dissatisfied by the response to their concerns, the couple hired attorney Jane Graham to represent them.
During the public hearing, Graham presented a long list of legal arguments regarding why the request should be denied, or at the very least delayed.
She claimed there are significant flaws in the traffic study for the rezoning, and the request is inconsistent with multiple sections of the county’s comprehensive plan.
Graham also suggested conditions to help mitigate the impacts and improve compatibility.
Other area residents also raised concerns about increased traffic and traffic safety, and asked for limitations on the number of users on the site’s lake.
The project site is within the Connected City Corridor, 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.
Before the board considered the proposed rezoning, it voted on another item — called a development agreement — that spells out road improvements that will be constructed by the developers before the hospital and associated projects proceed.
Hobby pointed to that agreement, in response to concerns about a lack of infrastructure to serve the project.
“The neighbors are alleging that we’re not putting the infrastructure in place to serve development in Connected City, and that is just flat-out wrong.
“The purpose of this development agreement is for us to build what is likely to be a four-lane, and transitioning to a two-lane road, in advance of development. A very extensive and expensive roadway,” Hobby said.
He also disputed testimony regarding insufficient school capacity. He said the school board does a good job of planning to address the impacts of growth.
Hobby also said the proposed development will benefit the county.
“We all know that we need hospitals — we’ve got a major growth spurt that’s ongoing in the county, and there are general hospitals that serve the general population,” Hobby said.
“But this is a regional facility that we expect may draw people from as far as 100, 150 miles away. And we’re very, very lucky, not only having it wanting to come to Pasco County, but in the exact location that we need it.
“So, in my mind, this is a day to be celebrated and the issues we’re discussing today — we’ve already put a great foot forward with our neighbors, but we’ll look back years from now and the only thing we’re going to remember is that this board voted to approve this project, the hospital and other uses that go with it.
“And, you’ll be proud of that for the rest of your life,” Hobby said.
Starkey said she believes that property values will greatly increase for the large-lot landowners in the area.
Hobby also noted that the hospital will be converting a great number of the multifamily units listed in its original application to other hospital uses.
Commissioner Ron Oakley, whose district includes the hospital site, welcomes the project to Pasco.
“The fact that the children’s hospital is coming there is great for Pasco County and the citizens of Pasco County.
“There’s a lot of hospitals coming to this area and the benefactor of all these hospitals coming here — they’re going to be competing against each other to give the best service to our citizens, and our citizens are the benefactors of all that service they’re going to get — and better health care for everybody,” the commissioner added.
“All Children’s Hospital is a great hospital,” Oakley said.
Published November 29, 2023