Pasco County Commission Chairman Ron Oakley is pushing for special planning efforts to “bring more interest, energy and investment” to the Lacoochee area, “while respecting the rural character of the community.”
He asked his colleague on the county board to join with him in directing the county’s staff to create a scope of work for a consultant to develop a concept plan for the area.
Once the scope is approved and a consultant is selected, a “non-binding concept plan” for the geographic area will be developed.
The boundaries for the study area will be recommended by the county’s planners and approved by the county board.
Chief Assistant County Attorney David Goldstein described the initiative like this: “Before we created the Villages of Pasadena Hills Plan, there was a consultant hired to create a concept plan for that area. It went to the board, the board looked at that concept plan and said, ‘Yes, this looks good. Go farther with it.’”
The Villages of Pasadena Hills is a special district, created through a special planning effort. It is next to the cities of San Antonio, St. Leo, Dade City and Zephyrhills.
Goldstein said his understanding of the board’s directive is for staff to bring back a scope of work for a consultant to create an initial concept plan.
Nectarios Pittos, director of the planning and development department, said he had the same understanding.
Oakley said the county has been talking for years about the need to create new opportunities in Lacoochee and it has helped to lay the groundwork with additional infrastructure.
Now, finally, there’s one manufacturing company in the area, and another one is coming, Oakley said. (At the Metropolitan Planning Organization Board meeting later in the week, Oakley also mentioned there are some additional companies looking into the area, too.)
As manufacturers move in, workforce housing will be needed, Oakley said. Area residents also will need services, such as doctors and a grocery store, he said.
The county wants to address those needs, Oakley said.
“There’s nothing wrong with good planning out ahead,” Oakley said. “We want to take care of them (new workers), ourselves,” he said.
Without it, workers will spend the day at their jobs in Lacoochee, then drive to Hernando or another county to live, the board chairman said.
Lacoochee once was a thriving community, home to one of the nation’s largest sawmill operations, Cummer Sons Cypress Company.
At one time, the company was the foundation of a community that functioned like a town, within a town.
“It has been over 60 years since that plant shut down,” Oakley said, and once the jobs were gone, the community fell on hard times.
Pasco County Administrator Dan Biles said the effort will focus on: “How do we want that area planned, going forward, based on the work we see that’s happening in that area?”
Oakley added: “We need to develop that the right way, and keep the rural nature of Lacoochee.”
Note: For a look at the history of the Cummer Sons Cypress Company, see this week’s feature story.
Published August 18, 2021