It’s no secret that Pasco County motorists frequently are frustrated by traffic backups, as they make their way to get wherever they need to go, throughout the day.
But the county already has a tool aimed at relieving congestion on its major roads, it simply isn’t using it as frequently as it should, according to David Goldstein, chief assistant county attorney.
Goldstein cited a portion of the county’s land development code that requires connections to be made between developments.
Those interconnections would give motorists additional ways to get around, without routinely being forced onto main roads to reach their destination.
The attorney’s remarks came during a June 16 discussion between members of the Pasco County Planning Commission and a consultant, regarding issues that need to be part of the county’s update of its comprehensive plan.
“To a large extent, the county has been good about trying to incentivize, encourage compact walkable communities,” Goldstein told Steve Schukraft, a planner with HDR Inc., consultants working with the county on its Pasco 2050 update.
“You’ll see some examples throughout the community,” Goldstein said, pointing to Starkey Ranch and Bexley as communities designed to be walkable and compact.
But, Goldstein said: “What happens is, you get a great community — like a Starkey Ranch or Bexley that has all of these compact, walkable, mixed-use requirements, for a sense of place — but then one development over is a gated subdivision, with no interconnectivity whatsoever. It doesn’t interconnect with the one that is connected.
“And, I’ll just be honest with you, we’re sometimes our own worst enemy. We’ll approve MPUDs (master-planned unit developments), flat-out gated subdivisions, with no interconnectivity,” Goldstein added.
He continued: “I review almost every MPUD that comes through the county. I’d say 80(%) to 90% of them have some part of the project they don’t want to interconnect.
“We have a code section that says, ‘You shall interconnect.’ But we are frequently granting alternative standards or variances, so people don’t have to do that.
“In many cases, it’s just because the developer says, ‘I don’t want to.’ Or, ‘I want to have a gated subdivision. I don’t want to have any interconnectivity.’
“With all due respect to staff, staff says, ‘OK, you don’t have to.
“Staff recommends approval of it. Planning Commission approves it. The board approves it. And everybody just acts like it’s not a problem.
“My point is, if we’re serious that this is what we want — compact, walkable communities with a street network that’s connected and plenty of alternate modes, at some point we just need to step up and say, ‘This is what you have to do.’”
There are some communities that have been planned with ways for people to get around from place to place, using golf carts, scooters, bicycles or walking.
“But in terms of local connections, local road interconnects? In my opinion, we’re doing a horrible job with it,” Goldstein said.
“I’m not blaming anyone in particular, we’re all rubber-stamping this,” Goldstein said.
“It’s sort of a death by a thousand cuts. Nobody realizes that we’re doing it, but I’m just telling you, we are,” he said.
Published July 06, 2022