The Pasco County Commission is considering a temporary pause on multifamily development in the central part of the county.
The board has directed staff to prepare an ordinance that would prohibit new applications for multifamily to be considered in an area bounded by State Road 54/State Road 56 on the south; State Road 52 on the north; U.S. 41 (Land O’ Lakes Boulevard) on the west; and Bruce B. Downs Boulevard and on the east.
The moratorium would take effect beginning on the date of the first public hearing — which has not been determined yet.
The idea is to give county staff time to research the number of existing entitlements for multifamily development and to report back to the board. Once the board has that information, it can decide how to proceed.
Board members voted 3-2 to support pursuing the temporary moratorium.
Commissioners Mike Moore, Christina Fitzpatrick and Jack Mariano voted yes; Commissioner Kathryn Starkey and Commission Chairman Ron Oakley voted no.
The vote came after extensive discussion, including analysis of Pasco County’s Class A market demand provided by Lesley Deutch, managing principal with John Burns Real Estate Consulting.
Deutch, who appeared on behalf of land use attorneys Joel Tew and Barbara Wilhite, told commissioners that demand for Class A apartments in Pasco County is expected to grow by about 5,380 over the next five years. She characterized that projection as a “conservative” estimate.
Nectarios Pittos, the county’s planning director, provided a presentation that reviewed the county’s policies regarding multifamily development.
“The compact nature of development requires less infrastructure; it’s less land, and so you are making use of existing infrastructure as much as possible,” Pittos said.
Commissioner Starkey cautioned against becoming too restrictive regarding the development of multifamily housing.
“We need to have some workforce housing,” Starkey said. “I am really getting concerned that we don’t pay enough attention to this part of our society, and they need to be integrated into all of our communities.”
Commissioner Moore said his district is becoming too saturated with multifamily development.
He has repeatedly warned against the long-range potential of having large apartment complexes that become less competitive over time wind up with high vacancy rates and ultimately fall into disrepair.
Commissioner Fitzpatrick has similar concerns.
“What’s going to happen 30 years from now?” Fitzpatrick asked, expressing worries about the prospect for crime.
But, Starkey said multifamily is needed to address today’s demand.
She said young professionals aren’t buying; they want to rent.
Starkey also noted: “There is a rise in trend of apartment dwellers being higher-income brackets.”
Noting that Pasco is an attractive area, Deutch said, “there’s a lot of growth in Pasco. Unless you want it to stop, you have to have housing.”
Like Starkey, Deutch said that renting has become a much more popular choice than it was in the past.
Chairman Oakley said Deutch’s report was informative.
“I don’t see we’re overrun with apartments,” Oakley said.
But, Moore persisted: “We continue to change zoning on parcels, when we already have the inventory to meet the demand.
“The parcels are there, ready to be developed tomorrow. These guys already have the entitlements,” Moore said.
“Did you look at all of the parcels that have the entitlements for the future, when you did your study?” Moore asked Deutch.
Deutch responded: “No, I did not. That wasn’t part of the study.”
Starkey noted that it can take decades for a property with an entitlement to actually be developed.
Attorney Tew raised this issue with the board: “I’m concerned that the commission will get into picking winners and losers in the marketplace. That is not what the government is supposed to do.”
He also told board members: “I think this is very treacherous ground and really uncharted territory for this commission.”
The prospect of a moratorium, according to Tew, “will be an immediate buzz kill to your potential employers.”
But, Moore cited a number of other places — such as Illinois, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Ohio, Texas and other jurisdictions in Florida — where moratoriums on multifamily are either in place, or are being considered.
Mariano, like Moore, thinks the county needs a better understanding of its current level of entitlements.
“I’m really scared that we don’t know what our supply could be, if everything was going to be built out,” Mariano said.
In another action relating to multifamily development, commissioners directed staff to prepare changes to the county’s land development code to remove the possibility of developing multifamily, as a conditional use, in a commercial zoning district.
The goal is to preserve commercial land for commercial uses, according to Fitzpatrick, who made a motion to pursue the change.
Moore seconded the motion, which was approved on a 4-1 vote, with Starkey dissenting.
Published February 24, 2021