The Pasco County Planning Commission is recommending approval of a six-month moratorium on new applications for multifamily development in a portion of the county.
Planning commissioners also think the land development code should be changed to limit the ability to receive a conditional use approval for multifamily uses on commercial land.
The planning board made both recommendations during its April 1 meeting. The Pasco County Commission is the final authority on both issues.
Planning commissioners said a pause on new applications for multifamily uses is needed to give staff time to collect data to determine whether there’s an oversaturation of multifamily within the temporary moratorium area.
Commissioner Mike Moore has repeatedly warned that too much multifamily is being allowed within District 2, which he represents.
A majority of board members voted in February to direct staff to prepare an ordinance to enact a six-month moratorium on new rezoning, conditional use or land use applications that would increase the potential for multifamily, in a specified area.
That specified area, which is contained in Moore’s District 2, is generally defined as between State Road 52, on the end; U.S. 41, on the west; State Road 54 on the south; and, Bruce B. Downs Boulevard, on the east, with the boundary zig-zagging between District 1, represented by Commission Chairman Ron Oakley, and District 2.
Not everybody is sold on the idea of enacting a temporary moratorium.
Eric Garduno, representing the Bay Area Apartment Association, said that while the proposed moratorium is temporary, its objective is “to discourage the growth of apartment communities in our county.”
That’s contrary to the county’s comprehensive land use plan, and would be a mistake, Garduno said.
“Apartment communities are a key ingredient to the future success of the county.
“Their development should be encouraged, not discouraged,” he said.
“The latest information I have regarding vacancy rates for apartment communities in Pasco County, is 6.1%, which is really, really low.
“There are just under 15,000 apartment units across the whole county. By comparison, Hillsborough County has 133,000. That is 11 people for every apartment in Hillsborough, and 36 people for every apartment in Pasco County.
“Nationally, 45% of rental households are in apartment communities, of five or more units.
“Only 25% of renters in Pasco County are in apartment communities.”
Garduno pointed to a market study provided to the county board in February.
That analysis, completed by Lesley Deutch, managing principal with John Burns Real Estate Consulting, projects a need for an additional 5,380 Class A apartments in Pasco County over the next five years.
Garduno told planning commissioners: “This demand is fueled by young professionals and empty-nesters, both of whom want amenities and services in and around their communities. He also noted: “Apartments are a key economic driver for the county. They, themselves are employers. This includes onsite teams, as well as a whole host of contractors who maintain and fix appliances and amenities throughout apartment communities,” Garduno added.
“More importantly, I think, for your consideration: They provide the rooftops for commercial investment. You need rooftops, to support retail. You need rooftops to attract major employers.
“Apartment communities get you those rooftops in a small footprint that furthers the comp plan — the comp plan objectives around reducing sprawl, reducing environmental impacts and maximizing the efficient use of infrastructure,” the apartment industry expert said.
Joel Tew, a private zoning and land use attorney, told planning commissioners instead of imposing a moratorium, the county should be encouraging more multifamily development.
“Here, at the peak of unprecedented housing demand, market demand, in this country — unprecedented housing inventory shortage in this country, unprecedented number of young professionals, and empty-nesters and retirees who are wanting apartments and the high-end lifestyle that the current product provides, it is simply a bad message to send to business,” Tew said.
“We should be providing incentives to get product there, to get affordable housing, to get apartment options for those that want to live in Pasco County,” Tew added.
“This whole concept is simply ill-designed to apply to one commission district, for purely political reasons that have nothing to with the comprehensive plan, that have nothing to do with market data, that have nothing to do with market demand,” Tew said.
Planning commissioners said they see the value of the pause, to collect more data.
Planning Commission Chairman Charles Grey put it this way: “They’re saying that this multifamily development is happening so rapidly, in order to make sure we have our arms around it and that we have the right regulations and support, we’re going to need for that, they need some time to review it and make sure they have the proper protocols in place.”
However, Grey and other planning commissioners said the data collection also should include information about vacancy rates — something the county board had not requested.
“I know from my perspective of being in that business, no developer goes in to develop an apartment project without knowing what the vacancy rates are. If the vacancy rates are 15(%) or 20%, he’s not going to build a new complex,” Grey said.
Planning Commissioner Chris Poole thinks the 180-day moratorium is needed, to ensure the county has the facts.
“We need to get it right. The data has got to be right. It’s incumbent on us to make sure we get it right for future generations,” Poole said.
Limiting multifamily on commercial land
While the moratorium is temporary and applies to only a portion of the county, a proposed change regarding conditional uses on commercial land would be a permanent change to the land development code and would apply countywide.
Planning commissioners resisted that proposal at a previous meeting, citing concerns about potential unintended consequences.
Planners brought a revised proposal to the planning board’s April 1 meeting.
That proposal would allow conditional uses to be considered for multifamily uses on general commercial land, if: the proposed multifamily meets the criteria for affordable housing; the multifamily would be part of a mixed-used development, including nonresidential uses; or the proposed multifamily development is located in the county’s West Market area.
Published April 07, 2021