The City of Zephyrhills is developing a master plan aimed at increasing high-wage industrial jobs and boosting the region’s economy.
Called the Zephyrhills Industrial Corridor Plan, it focuses on a large grouping of industrial properties and adjacent areas within the Chancey Road corridor, near the Zephyrhills Municipal Airport.
The proposed master plan industrial project is long-range in nature, geared at guiding growth and development for the next 20 years or so.
Details of the preliminary plan were shared by urban planning consultant Tammy Vrana at a June 10 city council meeting.
The planning area is generally bound by Melrose Avenue to the north, the CSX Transportation railroad and U.S. 301 to the west, Pattie Road to the south, and Barry Road and the Upper Hillsborough Wildlife Management Area to the east.
It encompasses approximately 9.76 square miles (6,248 acres), including 33 percent within Zephyrhills and the remainder in unincorporated Pasco County, representing the largest aggregation of industrial lands in Pasco.
According to the draft plan, about 1,630 acres of that has already been designated for industrial land use, and another 215 acres for commercial. About 631 acres consists of existing residential property.
Two CSX mainline railroads traverse the area, the plan shows, accessible to Port Tampa Bay and the CSX Central Florida Intermodal Logistics Center.
The Zephyrhills Municipal Airport, a general aviation airport, also is located in the heart of the plan area, which can accommodate needs of business travelers.
In her presentation, Vrana underscored the need for Zephyrhills to begin planning now for industrial development, and finding ways to identify and recruit employment-generating manufacturing companies.
“There’s no better way to growing your middle class,” Vrana said, “than having good paying, industrial jobs.
“It diversifies your economy, so you’re not relying on just a couple of industries segments, and that way you’re better able to weather economic cycles,” she said.
Vrana explained an industrial corridor would help bring in dollars from outside the community, which she said in turn creates more business activity within local shops, restaurants and so on.
“The revenues that you get from sales tax and property taxes…those things go to pay for your public services and amenities that are enjoyed by the entire community,” said Vrana.
Vrana stressed the need for the city to form partnerships with the Pasco County Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) and the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) to create a “beltway” network of four-lane roads and more roadway connectivity to the interstate system. Investing in other infrastructure and operational improvements to reduce congestion and increase the efficiency of freight movement are needed, too, she said.
Quality of infrastructure is typically the top criteria for companies in deciding to relocate or move to a particular area, the consultant noted.
Vrana told the council: “You need to consider hard infrastructure, the things that you typically think about, but also those soft infrastructure assets such as education, public-private partnerships and just simple networking opportunities for community businesses.”
Vrana went on to identify potential opportunities for commercial development and placemaking around State Road 39 and Chancey Road.
She said that area could be utilized for retail, hotel, gas station and more. It also can incorporate some recreational accents, perhaps an extreme bike course and walking trails “to make the area a little bit nicer for walking, shopping, and as a workplace,” Vrana said.
“Just because it’s an industrial area doesn’t mean that it can’t look nice, that it can’t be spruced up, and have some nice trees and landscaping,” Vrana said.
The city’s industrial master plan is being funded through a technical assistance grant from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.
The planning process for the master plan began in January. That included gathering relevant information and organizing a series of workshops, stakeholder’s meetings and open houses.
Vrana said next steps for the drafted plan include sketching up detailed conceptual layouts “and just look at the different things the city and its partners can do to increase business in this area.”
Additional opportunities for public input will be offered in late summer following development of plan illustrations and other refinements based on community feedback.
“I think that we all recognize the importance Zephyrhills of the industrial corridor brings us,” council president Ken Burgess said. “I’ve attended some of those workshops and meetings, and they’re very informative. And, there’s a lot of great discussion and feedback that I’ve seen, and I like the way the goals tie not into not just when you think about an industrial corridor, but the entire city and education, and all that.”
Councilman Lance Smith also voiced his approval of the industrial corridor initiative, but believes the city also must find ways to maintain its small-town vibe in the face of growth.
Smith put it like this: “I mean, I love going out to Wesley Chapel, but I would never live there, O.K. It’s a wonderful place to visit, but I like out downtown, I like our small town charm.”
Published June 19, 2019