The Pasco County Commission has sided with Wiregrass Ranch developers in a dispute with Pasco County Schools over covering the cost for a future road connection to Chancey Road.
Commissioners heard an appeal filed by the school district regarding a decision by the county’s Development Review Committee.
The committee had approved a new master road plan for Wiregrass that shifts Chancey Road to the south, and away from the anticipated access onto a proposed school site that is at least five years away from construction.
The site isn’t within the borders of Wiregrass, but school district officials say construction costs would increase by $1 million, if the school board has to pay to build a road to link to Chancey Road.
The plan that was approved by the development review committee includes a compromise that would mean either the school district or developers would pay for the road work — depending on what comes first, the school or the Wiregrass development.
School officials said they had counted on the Chancey Road extension, within the original master road plan.
“Everybody liked it. It was a great plan,” said Ray Gadd, Pasco’s deputy school superintendent. “Now, we’re down to two access points, which I don’t think the commission will like. I don’t think the neighborhoods will like them.”
In the future, the school district will need the County Commission to approve a school site plan, including its entrances and exits for school buses, and other traffic.
Gadd said there are concerns the county might not approve access off Meadow Pointe Boulevard.
He also noted that English Turn Way, which is internal to Country Walk subdivision, will not appeal to homeowners.
The new school is expected to focus on mathematics and science, with appeal to students living in Wiregrass and other places, Gadd said.
The deputy superintendent also offered an unexpected compromise — which had not previously been considered.
If Wiregrass would grant the school system exclusive easement for the road segment linking to Chancey Road, the school district would build and pay for the road, Gadd said. But, when developers start building in the area, they would need to negotiate with the school district to buy the road.
“We’ll turn this beautiful road over to you, but if it costs us $500,000, we want $500,000,” Gadd said.
Scott Sheridan, representing Wiregrass Ranch owners, didn’t go for it.
“I’m not going to respond at the podium for some new proposal that popped up,” Sheridan told commissioners. “I think it’s inappropriate.”
Sheridan also pointed out that Wiregrass had met its obligations to the school district with plans for five schools within the Wiregrass Ranch community.
Three already are open, including an elementary, middle and high school. In the future, two elementary schools also could be built at Wiregrass, Sheridan said.
Sheridan agreed that the county’s compromise on who pays for the road wasn’t that appealing. But, he said, “We can figure it out and live with it. We have plenty of time to figure it out.”
Pasco County Commissioner Kathryn Starkey, who has served on the school board, was conflicted. But, she eventually sided with Wiregrass.
“I do hope you (schools) don’t have to build the road. I do hope development comes in first and builds the road,” she said. “But, I think Wiregrass has met their school requirements.”
Gadd conceded that the county might eventually approve a site plan with access off Meadow Pointe and English Turn Way.
“We feel this is a fait accompli,” he said, of the county commissioners’ vote. “Its’ a done deal, but it’s a matter of the record now.”
Published April 4, 2018