The Pasco County Planning Commission has recommended denial of a request that would remove acreage from a county rural neighborhood protection area, and would increase its potential density.
The application by Old Pasco Townhomes seeks to change the comprehensive land use designation from Res-3, which allows up to three dwellings per acre, to Res-6, which allows up to six.
The request also calls for removing the 18.36-acre site at the northeast corner of Old Pasco Road and Hadlock Drive, from a county rural neighborhood protection area.
The county’s planning staff recommended approval of the request, but the planning board rejected that recommendation.
The planning board based its call for denial on a Pasco County policy that states the county shall recognize rural neighborhood protection areas “as areas that include existing rural neighborhoods that deserve and require special protection from the intrusion of urban uses, densities and intensities.”
The policy also notes that impacts in such areas “shall be minimized through the use of the standards and options for stepping down development and densities and transition of land uses, e.g., gradual reduction of intensity in uses, as well as additional buffer and setback standards in order to minimize visual and noise impacts on adjacent rural, residential developments.”
This case is complicated
The site is in an area designated for rural protection, but it also sits in an area the county has designated as an urban services expansion area – meaning that it is in an area that is expected to become more urban.
During the meeting, Barbara Wilhite, an attorney representing the applicant, pointed to Grantham Ranch, an existing nearby single-family subdivision. She said the proposed townhome project would be built in an area that is expected to change.
Christie Barreiro, of Heidt Design, who also represented the applicant, told the planning board: “Old Pasco Road is going to be a four-lane road, 124 feet in width. A lot of that right of way has already been purchased by the county. The county also is running utilities up Old Pasco Road for projects along (State Road) 52.
“This area, as we were saying, is in the urban expansion area, and also is in the south market area, which is supposed to be a high-density, high-intensity area. It seems odd, but it’s because it’s a parallel reliever to Interstate 75.
“So, you have Old Pasco on the west and you have McKendree Road on the east, and those are supposed to relieve the congestion on (Interstate) 75.
“So, in that corridor, it was always planned to have more intense, more dense development,” Barreiro said.
Nearby residents, however, told the planning board that they purchased large lots in the area because of its rural nature. They said they thought they would be protected from urban encroachment because their homes are in a rural protection area.
As one neighbor put it: “I don’t want to look at townhomes out my backyard. I bought 5 acres in a rural area for a reason.
“It’s an expansion area to some people. To other people, it’s their life, their house, their yard where their grandkids play.
“I don’t want to see my home considered an expansion area,” she said. “Removal from a rural protection area kind of negates the word protection. It’s not protected, if it can easily be removed.”
Planning board vice chairman Jaime Girardi, who was sitting as chairman because of Charles Grey’s absence, said the area is changing.
“You’re 1 mile from Overpass (Road), where they just built a whole intersection and a whole interchange at I-75,” Girardi said. “You’re half a mile from the school (Cypress Creek High School and Cypress Creek Middle School), half a mile from Grantham Ranch.”
The Grantham Ranch subdivision is built on land designated for three homes per acre.
Planning board member Jon Moody voiced misgivings.
He told his colleagues: “I’m having a hard time deciding this case. We clearly have a conflict in the comp plan (county comprehensive land use plan), probably should have been cleaned up in 2010, when the urban service area — expansion area — whatever we’re calling it, was overlaid over a rural protection area.
“I’m not sure whether that was a right decision or a wrong decision. I see the controversial entitlements we’ve approved east of I-75, at this location.
“So, it makes sense to me that we might see development along the west side of the interstate,” he said.
“That being said, we’re being told by the applicant, well, it’s going to be a four-lane road 10 or more years from now, maybe. There’s no money for it. And there’s still people there that still live a rural lifestyle.
“And yes, we’ve got some intrusion into that lifestyle by subdivision, single-family detached homes, but we haven’t got attached product yet.
“That’s the conundrum I’m trying to figure out.”
‘Doesn’t seem to fit with character’
Moody noted that planning board chairman Grey has observed on more than one occasion that an area must “be ripe” for development.
In this case, Moody said, “I just don’t feel that it’s ripe for (the) attached townhome product, the Res-6 (six residential units per acre).
“If this were going to come in as detached, I can see if they were going to come in as E-R (estate residential) zoning, or R-2 zoning on half-acre lots or something, that’s a little more dense than what’s out there.
“Or even some use that might require some utility services — but not down to attached product.
“This doesn’t seem to fit with the character of the area. It may be in future character, but I just don’t feel like it is for today’s character,” Moody said.
Planning board member Peter Hanzel also had issues with the request. He said the site is in a rural area. Hanzel made a motion for denial, which was seconded by Moody.
Other planning board members agreed with Moody’s assessment that the type of development being requested doesn’t fit in with the area’s current development.
Planning board member Chris Poole put it this way: “I think this is before it’s time out here.”
Poole said there are obvious issues with the comprehensive plan, but, he added: “Protections of the folks that live a rural lifestyle means something. This particular growth is ahead of its time.”
Planning board member Derek Pontlitz said from a planning perspective, the request makes sense.
“Obviously, you want your densities closer to your major thoroughfares because that’s going to put less traffic on the local roads trying to get to the 75s and the arterial stuff,” he said.
“This density will make sense at some point. I think I tend to agree that it’s probably not ready yet,” Pontlitz said.
Planning board member Chris Williams told Wilhite: “Barbara, I understand your explanation of the service area expansion. What I’m still struggling with is, everything around there is future land use Res-3.
“So, all of sudden, we’re plunking down Res-6.”
Wilhite said Grantham Ranch is a single-family subdivision and that the proposed townhome project would be a low density for a townhome development.
Girardi said he has an issue with removing a piece from the middle of the rural protection area.
“To take it out of the middle and go all of the way to Res-6 at this time is, I think, a bit of a stretch at this time,” Girardi said.
Although the planning board recommended denial, they don’t have the final word.
The request now goes to the Pasco County Commission, which has final jurisdiction over land use and zoning issues.
Published January 10, 2024