Children, and adults alike, will have a new recreational option when a new winter park opens for business in Northeast Pasco.
The Pasco County Commission on Aug. 6 approved the addition of a snow park, which will be situated next to Tree Hoppers Aerial Adventure Park, on the north side of St. Joe Road, about 800 feet east of Bellamy Brothers Boulevard, in Dade City.
The conditional use, approved by the board, applies to a western parcel that makes up about 58.5 acres and an eastern parcel that makes up about 60 acres.
The western parcel, which consists of areas of dense vegetation and a mature tree canopy, will be used for the winter park. Under the conditions, it can operate up to 120 days a year
The eastern parcel, which is the Tree Hoppers site, consists of zipline and rope ridge obstacle courses, concession areas, and a gift and pro shop. It also is used for fall festivals and Halloween festivities, including Scream-A-Geddon. Those activities will be allowed for up to 56 days a year, according to the conditions.
Both attractions will operate between two days and seven days a week, and they will not be allowed to operate at the same time, the conditions say.
The Pasco County Planning Commission and the county’s planners recommended approval of the request. They also recommended approval for the sale of beer and wine for consumption at the sites, which the county commissioners also approved.
Attorney Clarke Hobby, representing the applicant, detailed plans for the winter park, which he said will have a snow hill, where people can go snow-tubing, an area where people can play in the snow, and other features.
The snow is made using new technology, and the snow will stay in place for long periods, provided the weather doesn’t exceed 80 degrees, according to Hobby.
“I will tell you, as a native Floridian, staying under 80 degrees doesn’t happen a lot and, even though we’re allowed 120 days to operate the snow hill here, something tells me that it’s probably going to be more like 45 days,” Hobby said.
“We think we can be good neighbors and not create what is going to be a traffic or noise issue for our neighbors,” Hobby added.
Access to the properties will be off St. Joe Road, Hobby said.
Thousands of trees will be planted, which will create an evergreen condition and provide a noise and visual buffer, for the neighbors, he added.
He cited a dozen letters in support of the project.
But, there were opponents, too.
Judy Geiger submitted a binder full of documents and expressed opposition to the request.
She also introduced Bob Hunter, a planning expert, who said he was there to speak at her request.
Hunter, former executive director of the Hillsborough County City-County Planning Commission and a former president of the American Planners Association, told commissioners that the request is inconsistent with the county’s comprehensive plan. He also said the use is inappropriate and should not be approved.
Stephen Gonzalez, who lives on St. Joe Road, put it like this: “It’s just in the wrong place. Why isn’t this on (U.S.) 301, up where there used to be a golf course, north of Dade City? That’d be a perfect spot for this business.”
Gonzalez also complained to commissioners about the trash left behind on his road from people attending Scream-A-Geddon.
Hobby said the location works well for his client because of the natural topography.
“We’re working with the hills; we’re not cutting them down, we’re going to augment them,” Hobby said.
Commission Chairman Ron Oakley told Hobby: “You worked very hard with that neighborhood. I appreciate everything you did.”
Commissioner Jack Mariano weighed in with words of support: “The Tree Hopper thing, I think was a great addition to the county. Scream-A-Geddon was tremendous. I think this will be a nice amenity, as well.”
Commissioner Mike Moore, who is chairman of the Pasco County Tourist Development Council, agreed: “I think this is going to bring a lot of great things.”
But, Moore also asked Hobby to ask his client to keep an eye on St. Joe Road, to address any problems with trash.
Published August 14, 2019