As Pasco County’s rampant growth continues, the Pasco County Commission has been calling for changes to the land development code that would address aesthetic issues.
They’ve been hashing over the topic, off and on, for months.
Commission Chairman Ron Oakley put it like this, at a recent meeting: “We need to be real careful about what we allow our developers to do — make sure that they’re (doing) the right thing for Pasco County.”
Oakley has repeatedly voiced concerns about neighborhoods made up of houses on 40-lots noting there’s little room for landscaping.
“We’ve been rural for many, many years,” Oakley said. “We really do not want to destroy the nature of what we have in Pasco County, and yet, we do want to grow and have jobs for our citizens, and do the right thing for our citizens.”
Commissioner Kathryn Starkey has pushed for greater attention to design details, as the county’s building boom continues.
“If you go and drive and find a 40-foot front-loaded street, it’s just a driveway, garage and a door.
“If you drive down a street where they’re rear-loaded on 40-foot, it’s a porch and grass, and it’s very nice.
“You can see it in Starkey Ranch, you can see it Longleaf, you might see it in Asturia. In Bexley, I know, you see it,” she said.
“I’m not opposed to 40-foot lots. I’m opposed to 40-foot front-loaded lots and only 40-foot, and the house is cookie-cutter and there’s no architectural elements on it,” Starkey said.
“This is an issue that I think needs to be addressed soon. I don’t want 10,000 homes to be approved before we fix this,” Starkey told her colleagues, during a board session.
“I get that our development community needs to understand what we’re looking for.
“When I’ve been meeting with developers, I let them know, that I am very loathe to approve a 40s-only development (40-foot lots).
“I need some better landscaping in front of homes. I need a mixture of 40s, 50s, 60s (lots). I need better architectural details on the sides and the front. I need more rear-loaded 40-foots.
“I want to be fair to the development community. They need to understand what the rules are, or when someone buys a piece of land (what to expect),” Starkey said.
Commissioner Jack Mariano agreed: “We don’t want to build slums for the future. You know, density is sometimes overrated — how good it can be. If the lots are a little bigger, it makes it more comfortable.
“It’s a worthy conversation to bring forward at some meeting coming up,” Mariano said.
County Administrator Dan Biles told the county board that planning staff has drafted some potential conditions that could be added to master-planned unit developments to address concerns that commissioners have been raising — regarding smaller lots, the lack of landscaping on the front, parking and other issues.
Nectarios Pittos, the county’s director of planning and development, is meeting individually with commissioners to discuss the issues.
Biles noted: “Your focus has been on those single-family small lots, of 40-foot, but we thought through what that looks like on the townhome perspective, too. You need to think about both of those discussions. Your front-loaded townhome, you have the same types of issues, as you have with the small 40-foot lots.”
Starkey told her colleagues: “The city of Zephyrhills and Dade City require some architectural details, and we don’t. And, so, we are getting … windows and a door and a roof.”
Pittos said, when the driveways are rear-loaded, “you can talk about fenestration: How many windows you want to see. Where to place the door — keep it on the front of the house, instead of on the side of the house. A porch.”
Starkey said “there can be a smorgasbord of architectural details” that can be added, that are not expensive.
“We don’t want to see what we’re getting. We want to see better,” Starkey said.
As the county board considers changes to the land development code, Jennifer Motsinger, executive vice president of the Tampa Bay Builders Association, is encouraging the board to look at updates that can streamline the development review process.
In an interview with The Laker/Lutz News, Motsinger said that the cost of a home is made up of four components: Land, materials, local regulations and labor.
Some regulations in Pasco’s land development code have stymied ongoing efforts to streamline the development review process, Motsinger said.
She also noted there’s a need to balance the desire for a particular type of aesthetic with the need for affordable housing.
“Every single one of the suggestions that are being made (by commissioners) can be accommodated for a price. For a price,” Motsinger said.
“We have to make sure that there is a balance of options for folks,” she said. “We have to be careful that we are not trying to legislate to a particular type of buyer.
“One of the reasons you would do a neighborhood with just 40 (40-foot lots) is to get that more-affordable product,” Motsinger said.
She also addressed the issue of requiring homes with 40-foot lots to be backloaded.
“That trend is not in high demand. Because, guess what? Kids want a backyard to play in,” she said.
She said the building industry will be paying close attention to proposed changes and will want to weigh in on them.
“We have to be careful that our local government doesn’t have too much power to say how we live in our homes and what our homes look like,” Motsinger said.
Published December 01, 2021