Former county spray field to become industrial park

A 99-acre spray field on Old Pasco Road is poised to become an industrial park, which is expected to employ hundreds — under actions approved last week by the Pasco County Commission.

First, commissioners approved a staff recommendation to declare the property as surplus — making it available for sale.

Then, commissioners approved a proposed incentive package to encourage the Rooker Company, based in Atlanta, to create an industrial park on the land.

Commissioners also approved a purchase and sale agreement, providing a variety of conditions are met.

The property is about one-third mile south of the intersection with Overpass Road, which is where an interchange is planned with Interstate 75.

David Engel, Pasco County’s economic growth manager, briefed commissioners on the background of the deal at their Dec. 10 meeting.

Engel said the county received an unsolicited bid in the spring from the Rooker Company, to purchase the property for $2,850,000.

The company had calculated there would be 57 acres of developable land associated with this property, Engel said. Some of the remainder is needed for right of way for the I-75 interchange project and the widening of Old Pasco Road, while there’s also land needed for stormwater retention, there are hydrologic areas and there are designated wetlands.

“After an extensive amount of negotiation, the purchase price proposal has been increased to $3,596,500,” Engel said.

The purchase agreement is contingent upon compliance with the Master Planned Unit Development approved for the site in the spring of 2018, Engel added.

There are three conditions of sale:

  • The developer and the county must enter into a cooperative funding agreement for the first phase of development, which is 400,000 square feet. The total concept master plan is approximately 900,000 square feet of industrial construction.
  • Pasco County must remove the existing decommissioned wastewater infrastructure from the site. It also must regrade the property and install the basins.
  • The company must obtain all necessary land approvals for phase one.

Engel pointed out to commissioners: “The developer will be paying us for land that will be committed to road widening and also for the I-75 interchange.”

In a separate action, commissioners also approved an economic incentive to encourage the company to create new jobs.

County staff recommended $3.7 million in incentives.

“That amounts to $9.25 a square foot, which is the most economical incentive brought to the board so far, since the Penny (for Pasco, which supports economic incentives) was enacted in 2015,” Engel said.

The proposed first phase of the project calls for a 400,000-square-foot industrial park, which represents a $26.5 million investment, Engel said.

The first phase will create 427 direct and indirect jobs, and is expected to contribute to the gross county project, Engel added. “That’s a 13 to 1 ROI (Return on Investment),” he said.

Commissioners also agreed to an amendment to the agreement for sale and purchase that requires the county add to its five-year capital improvement plan — the widening of a section of Old Pasco Road to four lanes, from the south entrance of the property to Overpass Road, to four lanes.

Also, the financing — by a party other than the buyer —for the design, permitting and construction of the Old Pasco segment must be in place, such that the section of the Old Pasco be in place prior to the first certificate of occupancy for individual tenant premises for buildings within the project.

Commission Chairman Mike Moore said “We want to make sure that’s widened.”

Engel also noted that the design for the industrial park is “attractive, tilt-up industrial-style buildings. It’s a scale and prominence that has yet to be constructed here in Pasco.”
Commissioner Kathryn Starkey said  “I’m especially excited about the prospect for manufacturing at this site.”

Cason Bufe, vice president of real estate for Rooker, said the company is a family owned real estate business that began when Jack Rooker developed the company’s first industrial building in Atlanta.

Since then, it has developed and constructed more than 50 million square feet of industrial facilities across the Southeast United States, he said.

Rooker’s son, John, now manages the business and “has set a strategy that has led us to invest in pro-growth municipalities in Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia,” Bufe said.

“We have a proven track record in developing business parks of this kind, and public-private partnerships with government entities, and I applaud Pasco County for having the vision to create the Penny for Pasco program, rezone this property and invest in the new interchange at Overpass Road and I-75. Each of those factors was critical to us. We look forward to working side-by-side with the county to attract quality jobs and grow the tax base for Pasco County and its citizens.”

Published December 18, 2019

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