Opponents cite access concerns in Wesley Chapel rezoning

Questions are being raised about the safety of entering Wesley Chapel Boulevard from Hay Road, in a rezoning case seeking to allow 35 single-family attached townhomes on Hay Road.

The applicant, Lawrence P. Martinez, represented by Attorney Barbara Wilhite, is seeking to change the zoning on about 6 acres from agricultural use to medium density, multiple family.

The Pasco County Planning Commission heard the request at its May 9 public hearing.

The request involves a parcel on the west side of Hay Road, about 1,800 feet south of Wesley Chapel Boulevard.

The applicant has voluntarily agreed to deed restrictions that would limit the use of the property to single-family attached townhomes, said Denise Hernandez, Pasco County’s zoning administrator.

“This will not be an apartment complex,” Hernandez told planning commissioners, who serves as an advisory body to the Pasco County Commission on zoning and land use plan cases.

The zoning administrator also noted that the Pasco County Commission has approved similar zoning requests, and that county planners have recommended approval.

“The access at this point of time is proposed through Hay Road,” Hernandez said, but she added there’s a possibility that the parcel maybe developed along with the property to the north. If that happens, the primary access would be Wesley Chapel Boulevard, also known as County Road 54.

Neighbors, however, voiced concerns about the safety of using Hay Road as the primary access. Reginal Mesimer, a traffic engineer from St. Petersburg, appeared on behalf of Perry and Synthia Horner, who own property near the proposed rezoning.

The Horners own Hay Road, with some others who have easements to use it, Mesimer said.

“Right now, there are seven homes on Hay Road. One day, the Horners would like to develop their property with 200 units.

“About a year ago, a traffic signal went up at the entrance of Grand Oaks Boulevard, which didn’t line up with Hay Road. Now, there’s no way to provide a left-turn lane to enter Hay Road from County Road 54, and northbound queuing traffic coming out of Hay Road often is blocked by traffic queuing at the traffic signal at (County Road) 54.

“Mr. Horner tells me in the past year there have been two accidents associated with people who actually live on Hay Road, at that intersection, simply because Hay Road is so close to the traffic signal.

“Now, the county has plans to widen County Road 54 (also called Wesley Chapel Boulevard) to six lanes,” Mesimer added.

Mesimer noted that the parcel up for rezoning might be joined with another to the north, which has access to Wesley Chapel Boulevard.

That would be more suitable than trying to flow the traffic from the 35 new units onto Hay Road, Mesimer said.

The Horners have offered to provide land for an access road to allow motorists to drive to the signalized intersection at Grand Oaks Boulevard, which would improve access for everyone using Hay Road, Perry Horner said.

Paul Steele, of 4100 Hay Road in Lutz, urged planning commissioners to reject the rezoning request.

“We see our lives being turned upside down by this whole development, and a devaluation of our property. I’m here in complete protest to the idea,” he said.

Steele said he has lived on his property for 22 years and is raising several children there.

“We moved into that neighborhood for the specific express purpose of having our solitude, our privacy, being able to lead our lives in a certain way — free of heavy traffic, free of potential crime, free of people coming onto property constantly, being able to have our dogs run free, etc., etc., etc.

“This proposed development is going to have a serious negative impact on our lifestyle.

“If the road situation is not changed, it will have even an additional impact on the safety of my family and people coming to visit us on Hay Road.

“There’s been two very serious accidents. It led to one resident actually selling the property, leaving the property.

“It’s already a bad situation with a blind turn. When you turn right off of Hay Road today, traffic is coming 55, 60, 65 miles an hour. Very frequently people are almost rear-ended, just making a right-hand turn because you can’t see the traffic coming,” Steele said.

Wilhite said she’s not sure if her client will use Hay Road to get to Wesley Chapel Boulevard, or will be able to access the road through a property to the north.

David Goldstein, chief assistant county attorney, asked the applicants if there is sufficient right of way to improve Hay Road, if that becomes necessary for access.

Steve Henry, a traffic engineer from Lincks & Associates, representing the applicant, said there is enough right of way for a 20-foot road on Hay Road.

The planning board unanimously recommended approval of the rezoning. The Pasco County Commission has the final say.

Published May 15, 2019

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