Pasco County Commissioner Mike Moore is well aware of the influx of countless new residents to the area he oversees.
After all, Moore was quick to acknowledge the county he oversees is one of the fastest-growing in the state, if not the entire nation, during a speaking engagement last month for the East Pasco Networking Group.
“If you drive down any road, you can probably tell that we are (rapidly growing) now,” Moore said, during the April 27 meeting at IHOP in Dade City.
“People want to come to Pasco County.”
Besides what Moore considers to be “a happening place,” the elected official posited the following for why the county is experiencing such rapid growth: “I think we do a good job of keeping our taxes low and offering the same amount of services of the surrounding counties, if not more services that the surrounding counties offer, and I think we’ll continue to be able to do that.”
Moore — a small businesses owner who moved to Pasco in 2007 — further added that the county has emphasized public safety over the years, with support and resources for the county’s fire rescue and sheriff’s office, “and making sure those people were staying here, and not leaving.”
Moore, who represents District 2, explained, “When I first came here, people were leaving Pasco County to go work other places. Now, people from Hillsborough, Pinellas and those areas want to come to Pasco County. It’s just a fact. It’s awesome to see all these people that at one time left are saying, ‘Wow, we need to come back,’ or are telling their friends, ‘You need to go work in Pasco County,’ and that’s what we’re seeing on that side.”
Moore noted the county’s fiscal year 2020 permit numbers “skyrocketed,” despite the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Residential permits were up 32% from fiscal year 2019, while commercial permits increased 16.7% compared to 2019, he said during the meeting.
Moreover, the commissioner noted Pasco processed more single-family home permits than Hillsborough during the final quarter of 2020.
“It goes to show you, people like what’s happening in Pasco County and want to come to Pasco County. And not only do they want to move here, but they want to move their businesses here,” he said.
Continuing on the topic of growth, at least one area of concern is the number of apartment complexes popping up throughout the county, particularly in Moore’s district spanning much of central Pasco and Wesley Chapel, and generally bordering the Hillsborough County line south, U.S. 41 westbound, State Road 52 northbound and all the way east to U.S. 301.
Moore has been vociferous during commission meetings about enacting a temporary moratorium on apartments in a portion of his district until county officials can tally the number of entitlements currently on the books.
“There’s nothing wrong with apartments,” Moore said, “but when you have an over-saturation of one product, it can lead to bad things down the road.
“We saw it happen not only with Hillsborough County, but we did a lot of research on areas across the nation, and it really comes to spot zoning these apartments on every corner, and what we’re doing is actually taking away valuable land that could be office/commercial and job creating sites, especially in a hot market like this. If you don’t have the land available that’s conducive to having those products there, they’re not going to come.”
Moore added he disagrees with those in the apartment development industry who claim the county continually needs more complexes to satisfy the area’s growth, because “the land’s already entitled to allow it to happen,” he said.
Of further concern is the possible blight of such complexes decades into the future, which could bring down surrounding property values and increase crime rates, Moore said.
Moore put it like this: “We have to be very conscious and careful going forward, of, ‘How much of that one product do we actually have?’ because 10 years down the road, now it’s all bright, shiny and new, but what about the ones that have been here 20 years? Who’s going to take care of those? Who’s going to live in those? Are they going to become dilapidated?”
Though all sorts of residential and commercial development is in the pipeline, the local decisionmaker pointed out roughly 22% of county land is protected through the Environmental Lands Acquisition and Management Program (ELAMP).
ELAMP — created in July 2004 by county referendum — is responsible for purchasing environmentally sensitive lands throughout the county by either fee title or less-than-fee methods; funding is provided through a portion of the Penny For Pasco surtax.
“A lot of people don’t realize that, and that’s a big portion of the county, and it’s actually growing because there are still more funds available to do that,” Moore said.
“There’s land protected in Pasco, from east to west, north to south, that will never be built on, and will be there 100 years down the road for our great grandkids and great, great grandkids to enjoy.
“Some are passive park areas, obviously, and the public gets to typically have use of them, but it’s just land that’ll always be there and always be protected.”
ELAMP objectives, according to the county’s website, include the following:
- Protect natural communities, including uplands and wetlands
- Connect natural linkages
- Conserve viable populations of native plants and animals
- Protect habitat for listed species
- Protect water resources and wetland systems
- Protect unique natural resources
- Enhance resource-based recreational opportunities
- Expand environmental education opportunities
Published May 12, 2021