Pasco County is mapping out its greenways, trails and blueways to preserve more of natural, wild Florida, and to give residents more opportunities for outdoor activities.
Increasingly, that brings into conflict choices between public access and private property rights.
Pasco County commissioners grappled with the issue at a May 17 workshop.
Commissioners are searching for answers on how to sort out some unique land use priorities in establishing a master plan for a county trails network.
County staff are updating policies and a map that would be adopted as part of long range planning for the trails network. The map includes planned and conceptual trails, as well as existing trails, and already has the approval of the Pasco County Metropolitan Planning Organization.
But words carry meaning, and commissioners didn’t like the language of a proposed ordinance that struck out the word “new” in front of the word “development.”
It set off alarm bells on how existing development projects would be treated as the trails network is knit together.
“You’re not going to require existing developers to go back and upgrade to new standards,” said Pasco County Chairwoman Kathryn Starkey.
“I think it opens up a can of worms,” said Pasco County Commissioner Mike Moore.
While there is an increasing interest in recreation and exercise, Pasco County Commissioner Ted Schrader said, “I’m always concerned about unintended consequences. I just want some clarity on what the real intent is so we don’t have those unintended consequences. I support the idea of providing more recreation and trails.”
Pasco County Administrator Michele Baker said county staff is in early stages of drafting the ordinance, which would deal with policy. The regulatory process then would be the next step, she said.
“We haven’t started crafting the language yet,” Baker said.
Starkey said a “hierarchy” of trails should be identified. “We need to clearly define where are the master trails.”
Some of the lines on the map are ideas of where trails might go, and can be moved, she said. “We’re trying to get from (point) A to (point) B. We’re not going to take someone’s property to do it. We need to make sure that’s plugged in there.”
Many gated communities provide trails as amenities for their residents, said Allen Howell, the county’s senior planner for bicycles and pedestrians.
“Not all trails are publicly accessible,” he said.
The county’s trails network will be developed as part of area road projects, Penny for Pasco projects, the Sun Trail projects and private development.
Schrader said the marketplace would likely determine when and how private developers want to participate in the trails network, and when public access would be allowed.
Public comment wasn’t taken at the workshop, but land use attorney Clarke Hobby spoke briefly to commissioners, suggesting “softer” language was needed for the ordinance.
Afterward, Hobby said the county’s intent with the ordinance “isn’t clear.”
He suggested the county adopt its regulations for the trails creation before adopting a new map. “No one is against trails,” he said.
But, he pointed out one trail line on the current, proposed map cuts through private property in northeast Pasco that was bought 25 years ago.
Published June 1, 2016