The Pasco County Commission voted 3-2 to approve a request for a conditional use to allow a maximum of 248 apartments on the west side of Bruce B. Downs Boulevard, south of Eagleston Boulevard.
Commission Chairman Ron Oakley, and commissioners Kathryn Starkey and Christina Fitzpatrick supported the request; commissioners Mike Moore and Jack Mariano opposed it.
That vote followed an initial motion for denial by Moore, seconded by Mariano. But that motion failed on a 2-3 vote, with Starkey, Oakley and Fitzpatrick voting no.
Adventist Health Systems Sunbelt Healthcare Corporation is listed as the applicant, but the hospital chain intends to sell the 16.24-acre site to an apartment developer.
The land currently is zoned for commercial uses.
County regulations allow multifamily development, as a conditional use, in a commercial zoning district — but the county board must approve the conditional use permit.
Pete Pensa, a professional planner from AVID Group representing the applicant, described the proposed development during previous public hearings on the request.
The property is located at 5101 Bruce B. Downs Blvd., about one-fourth mile south of Wesley Chapel Boulevard.
The new development will feature three four-story buildings, active and passive recreation areas, preservation of open space, and a connection to an existing multi-use trail on Bruce B. Downs Boulevard, Pensa said.
Planned amenities include walking trails around a pond, a park, a dog park, picnic areas, a clubhouse and a pool.
The site is south of BayCare Hospital Wesley Chapel, which is under construction and expected to open in 2023. The hospital is expected to have over 220 jobs.
County planners and the Pasco County Commission both recommended approval of the conditional use request.
But Moore pushed for denial, during the April 7 public hearing and during a previous public hearing that had been continued.
Moore frequently has criticized what he perceives as an oversaturation of apartment development in District 2, which he represents.
He also has called attention to substantial numbers of residents in Wesley Chapel and Land O’ Lakes — who are opposed to the ever-increasing amount of multifamily development in the area.
Moore has repeatedly implored his colleagues to deny applications that would add to that inventory — citing concerns about potential for long-term negative consequences.
If too much of this type of development is allowed, he said, there’s a prospect of older apartment developments to fall into disrepair and become a community liability — as renters are attracted to newer developments.
He said that has happened in the Brandon area of Hillsborough County, and in the Westshore area of Tampa.
Moore also argues the county should avoid rezoning land now zoned for job-generating uses, such as commercial or industrial properties.
Mariano agrees with that position. The county should retain land designated for uses that create jobs, he said.
But, Starkey said she wants to see evidence that the area is oversaturated with apartments.
County planners are expected to collect data to determine if that’s the case during a proposed 180-day moratorium.
The county board has directed its staff to prepare materials to enact that temporary moratorium, and is expected to vote on the measure on May 4.
If approved, the moratorium would be retroactive to April 1 and would apply to an area roughly defined as between State Road 52, on the north end; U.S. 41, on the west; State Road 54, on the south and Bruce B. Downs Boulevard, on the east, with the boundary zig-zagging between District 1, represented by Oakley and District 2, represented by Moore.
The data collection is expected to include the amount of current multifamily development and the extent of multifamily entitlements.
The Pasco County Planning Commission, which has recommended approval of the temporary moratorium, also has called for the collection of vacancy rates, which they said is relevant on this issue.
Published April 14, 2021