Pasco County Commissioner Mike Moore failed to find support from his colleagues when he suggested adding a seat on the county’s planning commission for a representative from the sheriff’s office.
Moore recommended the expansion of the planning commission during the county commission’s Jan. 12 meeting.
He said Sheriff Chris Nocco has asked for such involvement in the past, and Moore asked his colleagues to move forward with the request.
“It would definitely be an asset, with the growth of the county, when it comes to public safety, as well as the traffic concerns. They need to be represented on the planning commission.
“We do have a school board (representative) that’s on the planning commission. It would only benefit us to have the sheriff’s office to have a representative on the planning commission,” Moore said.
But, Pasco County Attorney Jeffrey Steinsnyder noted: “the school board is on the planning commission only for the purposes of increase in residential density, and that’s by statute.”
He added: “I’m not sure you couldn’t put a representative of the sheriff’s office on it, but that would require a land development code amendment to change that composition.”
Commissioner Kathryn Starkey was not receptive to expanding the planning commission.
“It just seems kind of odd to me, to put the sheriff’s office on the planning commission,” Starkey said. “Is there any planning commission in the state that has law enforcement on it?”
Steinsnyder said he would have to research that question to find out.
Starkey then asked: “Is there anyone at the sheriff’s office with planning background?”
Moore responded that the sheriff does have someone in mind that he would like to appoint to that role.
Chase Daniels, assistant executive director for the Pasco Sheriff’s Office, said “to Commissioner Moore’s point, obviously any time there are new developments, there could be criminal elements to that.
“There are other concerns with CPTED, which is crime prevention through environmental design — guardhouses, gates, security cameras, lights.
“And then, to Commissioner Starkey’s point, as well, anytime you add more cars on the road, you obviously add more people that are speeding, people looking for through routes and trying to get off major thoroughfares.”
The sheriff’s intent is that “so many of those things that do come through the planning commission, we would appreciate the opportunity to have eyes on, as they go through, and make recommendations,” Daniels said.
Starkey said she’s fine with having a safety voice, but doesn’t think the planning commission is the best place for that.
“We take public comment, and certainly we hold the sheriff’s comments in high regard, and I would think that he should come to the meetings. However, being a voting member — I think that’s just not the right place for them,” Starkey said.
Commission Chairman Ron Oakley and Commissioner Jack Mariano agreed with Starkey that the sheriff’s office doesn’t need to have a representative on the planning commission.
Moore told his colleagues: “I guess I don’t understand the apprehension to have somebody appointed from the sheriff to be on the planning commission, when everything and anything approved does have some type of impact on law enforcement.
“They’re asking to be involved in those discussions,” Moore said, noting the sheriff’s office can add a “totally different insight.”
He also reminded board members of how important public safety is to the residents of Pasco County.
“We’ve seen time and time again, on our surveys, public safety always ranks No. 1,” Moore said.
Nectarios Pittos, the county’s planning and development director, said that having a sheriff’s office representative provide input on pre-application reviews could provide a chance for the law enforcement agency to weigh in at a much earlier stage of the project, than they would at the Planning Commission stage.
County attorney Steinsnyder also noted that the sheriff’s office might be able to be involved in another aspect of the county’s planning efforts, too.
“They may need a seat at the table at ordinance review, where we’re developing the land development code changes,” Steinsnyder said.
But Moore pressed on, noting he’d made a motion to take the necessary steps to add a representative from the sheriff’s office to the planning commission.
That motion was seconded by Commissioner Christina Fitzpatrick, but it failed, with Oakley, Starkey and Mariano voting no.
After the vote, Moore asked County Administrator Dan Biles to be sure to reach out to the sheriff’s office to invite them to have a member attend pre-application meetings, which Biles said he would do.
Biles also noted that the county already shares some planning information with the sheriff’s office, but he will make sure that the information is getting to the right place.
Published January 20, 2021