A new winter play park may be coming to East Pasco.
The attraction would have a snow hill where people could go snow-tubing, an area where they could play in the snow, and other features.
The winter park would be situated next to the Tree Hoppers Aerial Adventure Park, off St. Joe Road, east of Bellamy Brothers Boulevard, in Dade City.
The Pasco County Planning Commission and the county’s planning department have recommended approval of the request, with conditions.
A dozen letters in support have been incorporated into the public record, as part of the application, but the request also encountered opposition during the planning commission’s July 11 public hearing.
The applicant is seeking conditional use approval for two parcels, as well as permission to sell beer and wine for consumption on premises, said Denise Hernandez, the county’s zoning administrator/special projects manager.
The western parcel makes up about 58.5 acres and the eastern parcel makes up about 60 acres, Hernandez said.
The western parcel consists of areas of dense vegetation and a mature tree canopy. The applicants want to convert that into a winter park.
The eastern parcel is occupied by Tree Hoppers, which was approved as a conditional use in 2012. It consists of zipline and rope ridge obstacle courses, concession areas, and a gift and pro shop.
The Tree Hoppers site also is used to host an annual fall festival and Halloween festivities, including Scream-A-Geddon. Those events have been operating under annual temporary use permits.
The pair of attractions would be on the north side of St. Joe Road, about 800 feet east of Bellamy Brothers Boulevard and on the east side of Bellamy Brothers Boulevard, approximately 1,400 feet north of Bent Fork Road.
The conditional use, which would apply to both parcels, would allow the winter park to operate up to 120 days a year and the festivities on the Tree Hoppers site to operate up to 56 days a year, according to proposed conditions. Both of the attractions would operate between two and seven days a week, and both attractions would not be allowed to operate at the same time, according to the conditions.
Attorney Clarke Hobby said his client owns the Tree Hoppers site and purchased the other parcel.
“There is actually new technology where you can build a snow hill, and provided that the weather stays under 80 degrees, the snow will stay in place for an extended period of time,” Hobby said.
“While we’re asking for a term that may be up to 120 days (for the winter park), my suspicion is, based on being born and raised here — it may be only open 30 or 45 days a year,” Hobby said.
The proposed winter park would not be the first operation of its kind, the attorney said.
“They’ve got one up in Stone Mountain, Georgia, and it’s a bigger facility than we may have here, but this is what they are talking about creating. They’re very, very popular. People really, really enjoy them with their kids,” Hobby said.
The attorney said his client wants to be a good neighbor and has had a number of neighborhood meetings, which he described as being productive.
As a result, most of the neighbors living or having property closest to the site have submitted letters of support, Hobby said, adding he would be glad to continue working with any neighbors who have concerns.
William Geiger, who owns property next to the proposed winter park, told planning commissioners that he’s concerned that the proposed project could negatively impact his property values.
“I just don’t feel a 40-foot snow hill fits the agenda you all put in for Northeast Pasco,” Geiger said.
He characterized the request as a commercial operation, and said there are plenty of other commercial locations where it could go.
Stephen Gonzalez, of St. Joe Road, lives less than a mile from the proposed attraction.
“I moved out there 23 years ago. We did so because it’s quiet and it’s rural, and you can see the stars at night,” Gonzalez said.
He doesn’t mind Tree Hoppers, because the attraction is back in the woods.
But, he asked: “How did Scream-A-Geddon come about?
“It’s like having the state fair at the end of your residential road, for about two months. That kind of traffic. That amount of cars. That amount of people, driving up and down the roads. “That amount of trash, on the side of the roads. Every Saturday and Sunday. It’s a big crowd.
“I think it’s .75 miles from my house to the corner of St. Joe and Bellamy Brothers,” Gonzalez said.
Like Geiger, Gonzalez said the proposed attraction should be in a commercial space.
“It’s just in the wrong area. It should be on (U.S.) 301. It should be on (U.S.) 19. It should be in a commercial business area,” he said.
“This is an amusement park. People are paying admission. This should be in a commercial area,” he said.
“It’s on a road that’s a completely quiet, rural residential road,” Gonzalez said. “This doesn’t fit at all to that rural, residential setting.”
Hobby said one of the reasons for locating the park in the area is because of the land’s contours. “There’s a natural roll on it. There is about a 30- to 40-foot drop over the west side.”
The attorney also noted the plan calls for substantial buffering.
Hernandez said the conditions place specific limits on the operating hours.
When the winter park is open, its operating hours would be Sunday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.
When the fall festival and Scream-A-Geddon area open, the operating hours will be Sunday through Thursday, 7 p.m. to 11 p.m., and Friday and Saturday, 7 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Planning Commissioner Jaime Girardi spoke in favor of the request.
“The applicant here seems like he’s done a lot to protect the buffer. He’s protected the access. He’s limited the access to only St. Joe Road.
“I think the applicant has done a lot to try to be a good neighbor,” Girardi said.
The request now goes to the Pasco County Commission, which has the final say on zoning and land use issues.
Published July 24, 2019