The Pasco County Planning Commission is asking the Pasco County Commission to direct county staff to provide a second presentation on the Greater Lacoochee Plan, but this time to allow public comment to provide feedback on the plan.
The planning board received a Lacoochee Plan presentation before, but at that session, the public’s only opportunity to comment was at the beginning of the meeting — before the planning board was briefed on the plan.
During the planning board’s Dec. 7 meeting, Nancy Hazelwood, a resident who has been active for years in the efforts to preserve Pasco’s rural areas, asked the planning board to request another presentation on the Lacoochee plan.
She told the planning board: “The plan is over 30 pages long and it was only given 10 or 15 minutes to cover the material.
“Because of the lateness of the evening, the planning board had no time to ask questions or give relevant information on it.
“I don’t know how many others came to hear it or watch the meeting, but I stayed a very long time. I got there at the beginning and I stayed until 8 o’clock or 8:30, when it was over.
“The project could be a game-changer. It will be a game-changer for the Northeast Rural protected area. Presenting this plan without enough time for discussion is disenfranchising the Pasco citizens by not letting us hear the plan and make written comments to the BCC (Pasco County Commission) before it goes to that board.
“So, what’s the hurry? It’s part of the 2050 Plan (update). Let’s bring it back,” she said.
Hazelwood also noted that she was representing several members involved in developing the original Northeast Pasco Rural Pasco Overlay District. They were not able to attend because of illness or medical appointments, she said.
Nectarios Pittos, director of planning and development, told the planning board: “The plan is a non-binding concept plan. It was scheduled for presentation, I believe in October, here at the Planning Commission. It was not as a public hearing, however, just as a presentation to the planning commission that this was the plan.
“It was originally scheduled for the Nov. 14 board of county commissioners meeting, again for presentation, as it is a non-binding concept plan,” Pittos said.
That presentation was rescheduled into January because the board didn’t have time to take it up at the November meeting, Pittos said.
“The ball, right now, is with the board of county commissioners. To have it reheard at the planning commission, that would have to be a request made to the board,” Pittos said.
Planning board member Derek Pontlitz noted: “It’s a concept plan, then after that, there are workshops that are going to be held.”
Pittos added: “The non-binding concept plan definitely has ideas that can then be downloaded into the Pasco 2050 Comprehensive Plan Update. That’s going to be a work in progress over the next year or so, for the Pasco 2050 Comprehensive Plan Update.
But Hazelwood’s request resonated with planning board member Jon Moody, who made a motion to ask planning staff to request another presentation for the planning board and to accept public comment.
Moody noted that would “at least allow us to hear some public comment on it, so that it can get incorporated into any message or recommendation that needs to get delivered to the board.”
Moody said it would be helpful for the public to “be able to hear the entirety of the plan — all of the high points, the low points and the in-betweens, and to make their comments after they’ve got all of the information.”
The planning board approved Moody’s motion unanimously, with Chairman Charles Grey absent.
Two other residents attending the Dec. 7 meeting thanked the planning board for its action.
Lisa Moretti, who has been active in efforts to protect Pasco’s rural areas, told the planning board: “I know that we get called squawking chickens. I’m tired of being a squawking chicken. But I would also say, if you haven’t watched the movie ‘Chicken Run’ lately, I suggest you do, because we’re just going to keep squawking.
“I’m really grateful that you chose to bring the Lacoochee plan back. It’s very important. Some of the things that are in that plan literally gut the rural area, the Northeast Rural Area, and dramatically change some of the things.
“I know there are maps that some of you have not seen before that have been presented by the developer that move the transition area boundaries inside the rural area, rather than having them be transitions outside. I think that is a travesty. So, I’m really grateful that you are willing to hear that again and allow us to come back and bring comment.”
Moretti said it’s important to determine whether the plan is truly a non-binding concept plan, or something more.
“We have a commissioner walking around saying, ‘This is an implementation plan. It’s a done deal. You might as well just sit down and be quiet.’
“That’s not in my DNA because what’s happening is so important.
“And, if it is an implementation plan, we need to be clear on that. If it’s an implementation plan, we need to have even more public comment.
“If it’s just, ‘Here’s our plan, we’re presenting it to you,‘ we need to have comment there, too, but we still have some leeway and negotiation time.
“If it’s an implementation plan, as we’ve been told by our commissioner, I’ve got serious issues with that.
“I encourage you to really take a hard look at that plan, and clearly define exactly what it is,” Moretti said.
Published January 10, 2024