The Pasco County School Board is scheduled to set boundaries for the new Starkey Ranch K-8 school at the board’s Dec. 1 meeting.
The school — part of a complex that includes a theater, library and cultural center — is scheduled to open in the 2021-2022 school year.
The board held a public hearing on the proposed boundaries during its Nov. 17 meeting, with no one stepping forward to offer public comment.
“Starkey Ranch K-8 is built to house about 1,500 students. Initially, the school will open with kindergarten through seventh-grade students. The plan is to grandfather rising eighth-graders to their existing school,” Chris Williams, the district’s planning director told the school board during the public hearing.
“Staff put together a plan to rezone about 450 students from Longleaf and Odessa elementary schools to Starkey Ranch.
“In addition, approximately 100 students from River Ridge Middle School are proposed to be rezoned to Starkey Ranch,” he said, noting the students assigned to Starkey Ranch K-8 live in the development.
“With the Starkey Ranch development continuing to build houses for the next couple of years, we expect growth of about 200 K-8 students per year, so with growth, we anticipate approximately 750 K-7 (kindergarten through seventh grade) zoned students upon opening.
“That leaves quite a few seats open for magnet school. However, we will be working to make sure we keep seats available and open for growth, in that area,” Williams added.
District staff had an open house to explain the boundary proposals, and also accepted comments via the district’s Let’s Talk portal, Williams said.
Six comments were received via Let’s Talk.
“One person requested Asturia to be zoned for Starkey Ranch; one requested the Woodlands neighborhood of Longleaf to be zoned for Starkey Ranch. Others had questions about Starkey Ranch registration and grade configurations,” Williams said.
The district also is recommending a slight boundary shift affecting the Watergrass and Wesley Chapel elementary schools.
The change is being made as a result of the Epperson Ranch subdivision, Williams said.
“That area of Epperson Ranch being developed goes all of the way up to Tindale Road.
“You’ll also notice a small sliver above Tindale Road that has a few houses. Originally, when we were developing this plan, there were no elementary children who lived there who were attending the zone of Wesley Chapel elementary, but come August, one student did move into that area. We’ve been talking among ourselves. They will be rezoned to Watergrass Elementary, but if they choose to remain at Wesley Chapel Elementary, we plan on accommodating them,” Williams said.
Additionally, Superintendent Kurt Browning does not intend to reset school choice for any of these schools that are affected by the boundary changes and grandfather children in with transportation.
The final public hearing on the proposed boundary changes for Starkey K-8, as well as Watergrass and Wesley Chapel elementary, is set for 9:30 a.m., on Dec. 1, in the board chambers at district headquarters, 7205 Land O’ Lakes Blvd., in Land O’ Lakes.
Turnout was light for a public workshop regarding school boundaries held last week at Wiregrass Ranch High School.
Thousands of students will be affected by the proposed changes, but the vast majority of changes relate to Cypress Creek Middle School, which is set to open in the fall of 2020.
The school district initially had planned to open both a high school and a middle school on the campus at 8701 Old Pasco Road.
But, the district was short on funding, so initially the high school buildings were used to house students in grades six through 12.
When the new middle school opens next fall, students in grades six through eight will shift to the new building.
But, boundary changes are needed to fill up remaining capacity at both the middle school and the high school.
The proposed changes primarily affect the Seven Oaks neighborhood, said Chris Williams, director of planning for Pasco County Schools.
Specifically, the school district is proposing that 613 students now zoned to Wiregrass Ranch High School be shifted to Cypress Creek High School, and seven students zoned to Pasco High School be rezoned to Cypress Creek High School.
If that’s approved, the estimated enrollment at Cypress Creek High School would be 2,080, in a school which has a permanent capacity of 2,090.
After the proposed shift, Wiregrass Ranch would have an enrollment of 1,606 students, in a school with a permanent capacity of 1,633. Pasco High would have an enrollment of 1,602, in a school with a permanent capacity of 1,491.
The proposed boundary changes also call for shifting over to Cypress Creek Middle, an estimated 446 students now zoned to John Long Middle and five students now zoned to Pasco Middle.
If those changes are approved, Cypress Creek Middle would have an estimated 1,554 students, in a school with a permanent capacity of 1,600. John Long Middle would have 1,167 students, in a school with a permanent capacity of 1,327. Pasco Middle would have 918 students, in a school with a permanent capacity of 875.
Under the proposal, seven students living along State Road 52, at the north end of Old Pasco Road, would be reassigned from Pasco High to Cypress Creek High.
That shift is being proposed because where they live is a straight shot to Cypress Creek High, Williams said. “We felt that made sense.”
The district also is proposing to shift an attendance area with 17 students in San Antonio Elementary over to Quail Hollow Elementary.
“These kids currently go to San Antonio Elementary, Pasco Middle and Pasco High. So, now they’re going to go to Quail Hollow Elementary, Cypress Creek Middle and Cypress Creek High,” Williams said.
In another proposed change, an attendance area with 143 students now zoned to Wesley Chapel High would be reassigned to Zephyrhills High. That would bring Zephyrhills High’s enrollment to 1,780, at a school with a permanent capacity of 2,004. It would bring Wesley Chapel High’s enrollment to 1,438, at a school with a permanent capacity of 1,506.
Williams said the change addresses a previous boundary shift.
“We rezoned some kids several years ago out of Wiregrass and John Long into Wesley Chapel and Weightman. We kind of shifted these kids over to Stewart Middle, but there wasn’t room at Zephyrhills, so they went to Wesley Chapel.
“The bulk of these kids go to Chester Taylor Elementary, then they go to Stewart and then they go to Wesley Chapel,” Williams said.
The planning director also noted that “Wesley Chapel has all of this growth coming from Epperson Ranch.
“So, we think it makes sense to fix the feeder pattern. Elementary and middle doesn’t change: They’ll still go to Chester Taylor and Stewart Middle. But, now they’ll go to Zephyrhills (High),” Williams said.
Zephyrhills High has room because the district just built a new classroom wing there.
As of last week, Williams had not received any feedback on the proposed shift affecting Zephyrhills High.
Overall, he has received about three dozen comment cards regarding the proposed boundary shifts changes — the vast majority coming from the Seven Oaks neighborhood.
As is often the case, those commenting said they’d bought their home in a specific neighborhood because of the school their child would attend, or they objected to the change because the new school is farther away from their home than their current school.
When the district drew up the original boundaries for Cypress Creek Middle High, it announced it would likely be shifting the Seven Oaks neighborhood over when the new middle school opened.
But, apparently that word did not get out to everyone, Williams said.
Jessica and Alex Morales, who live in Seven Oaks, said they moved into the neighborhood so their daughter could finish high school at Wiregrass Ranch. But, it now appears that their son, who is a freshman at Wiregrass Ranch, will be reassigned to Cypress Creek High next fall.
They attended the public workshop to see if there was any possibility their son could stay at Wiregrass Ranch High.
“We had moved from New York. He met all of his friends in sixth grade,” Jessica Morales said.
Under the proposal, he’ll be attending a high school that’s different from many of his friends.
“We’re trying to lessen that blow,” she said.
The family also has a second-grader they need to think about, too, she said.
They are planning to learn more about what Cypress Creek High has to offer.
Williams said there are other boundary changes proposed that would affect an area near State Road 52 and the Suncoast Parkway that is currently undeveloped, but has been approved for a massive development.
The proposal calls for assigning the entire area to Mary Giella Elementary, Crews Lake Middle School and Hudson High, Williams said.
Under the current boundaries, some of that future growth would have been assigned to Land O’ Lakes High, Pine View Middle and Connerton Elementary.
Anyone who wishes to comment on the district’s proposed boundaries can fill out a comment form by going to the district’s website, at Pasco.k12.fl.us.
The Pasco County School Board will have a public hearing on the proposed boundaries on Nov. 5 at 6 p.m., at 7227 Land O’ Lakes Blvd., in Land O’ Lakes. The final public hearing is set for the same location on Nov. 19 at 6 p.m.
The Pasco County School Board has approved the acquisition of a 104-acre site near the Connected City area of Wesley Chapel.
The school district anticipates there will a need for future schools as more residents move into Connected City, which includes Epperson Ranch and other future developments.
The site is at the southeast corner of Curley and Kiefer roads, directly across the street from future phases of Epperson Ranch and just south of the future Mirada development.
The board’s unanimous vote allows district staff to proceed with the necessary steps to acquire the property from the owners of Kirkland Ranch.
This acreage would potentially house a future high school and/or future kindergarten through eighth grade school, according to a school board document prepared by Chris Williams, director of planning services for the school district.
The owners have agreed to sell the property to the school district for $20,000 per acre, with the full sales price expected to be slightly more than $2 million.
The purchase is contingent on the completion of two independent appraisals, due diligence and some additional conditions.
Part of the agreement includes that the entire campus to be constructed at the site shall be named the Kirkland Ranch Campus, subject to applicable school board policy.
The campus may include one or more of the following types of schools: elementary, middle, high, vocational training or magnet.
The agreement also stipulates that once the campus is named, the name cannot be changed for a minimum of 50 years subsequent to the issuance of a certificate of occupancy, or completion.
The proposed sale is also subject to other requirements, which include allowing the seller to use the land for livestock grazing purposes at no rental until such time the school district commences construction of the campus.
The school district also agrees to build a barbed wire fence to separate the property from the seller’s remaining land to the south.
Ongoing road construction translates to “good things” for Pasco County — that was the message that Pasco County Commissioner Ron Oakley brought to The Greater Dade City Chamber of Commerce’s breakfast meeting.
Oakley was the chamber’s featured guest speaker on Sept. 19 at Bayfront Health.
Speaking to a crowd that numbered in the dozens, Oakley provided updates on several priority projects.
Among the projects he discussed:
State Road 56 extension: The $65 million four-lane project — which extends from Meadow Point Boulevard in Wesley Chapel, 6 miles east to U. S. 301 and State Road 41 in Zephyrhills — should be complete within the next 18 months to two years, Oakley said. “You can see that it’s already being worked through, and there’s already lime rock at U.S. 301.”
State Road 54 (Curley Road to Morris Bridge Road): This project involves the widening of State Road 54 from Curley Road to east of Morris Bridge Road. State Road 54 will be widened to six lanes from Curley Road to Foxwood Boulevard and to four lanes from Foxwood Boulevard to Morris Bridge Road. Oakley said utilities are underway, with the right-of-way acquisition process already complete.
Interstate 75 and State Road 56 interchange: The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) is slated to begin construction sometime next year on a $18.5 million diverging diamond interchange project for the 2.3-mile-long northbound exit. Such projects, according to the website DivergingDiamond.com, are designed to create fewer conflict points when traveling through them, have better sight distance at turns, shorter pedestrian crossings and wrong-way ramps that are extremely difficult to access. “They have one of those in Sarasota now, and it’s working very well,” Oakley said.
Eiland Boulevard: Eiland Boulevard, stretching to Handcart Road, will be repaved, beginning sometime in November. Traffic signals also are coming to the intersections of Eiland and Handcart, and Eiland and Geiger Road.
Oakley underscored the importance of ongoing road projects in one of the state’s fastest-growing counties, particularly for major events like the annual Kumquat Festival in Dade City, which draws more than 40,000 people.
“They have a hard time getting here, and once they get in here, they have a hard time getting out of here. It’s a fact. The roads don’t allow them to get out,” said Oakley, whose district includes the largest geographic area of the county, stretching from south of Zephyrhills to a portion of Shady Hills west of the Suncoast Parkway.
Pasco, which recently crossed the 500,000-population threshold, now has approximately 505,000 residents.
The figure is estimated to grow to 750,000 people by 2030, and more than 1 million by 2040.
Oakley pointed out the U.S. Department of Transportation has already allocated $350 million for countywide road spending.
“The road construction…is coming finally to our area,” Oakley said. “It’s been my entire lifetime we’ve been here waiting on four-lane roads on (State Road) 52 and other roads for a long time.”
He added: “Those roads are coming, and it’s going to be better, but the problem is we’ve got to walk through all this construction and bear with it for a little while longer.”
Oakley also tackled the ongoing traffic congestion at the intersection of U.S. 41 and State Road 54, in Lutz and Land O’ Lakes.
The interim fix for the intersection, through which nearly 100,000 vehicles travel daily, calls for extending the length of turn lanes at a cost of about $1.5 million. The plan, for eastbound State Road 54 motorists, would extend the length of the right-turn lane from 215 feet to 1,050 feet; extend the inside left-turn lane from 350 feet to 750 feet; and extend the outside left-turn lane to 875 feet.
The commissioner served up his own solution: “What needs to be done at (U.S.) 41 and (State Road) 54? It needs 10 lanes. Guess what it takes to get them? All four corners have to be bought in the future, to make that wider, handle that traffic.”
Besides road projects, Oakley updated chamber members on Connected City, a master-planned community in eastern Pasco County that promises the fastest Internet and Wi-Fi speeds in the nation.
At its 50-year build out, Connected City — encompassing about 7,800 acres bordered by Interstate 75, State Road 52, State Road 54, and Curley and Overpass roads — is expected to have more than 96,000 residents within multiple neighborhoods; 37,000 homes and apartments; as many as 7.2 million square feet of employment facilities; and, a role-model reputation for technology innovation.
Oakley said the first phase of Connected City, now being developed on the former Epperson Ranch by Metro Development Group, already has 120 lots finished and 25 families living there, with another 75 lots in the process of being closed.
The initial progress, Oakley said, unexpectedly translated to an additional $2 million in school impact fees for the county this past quarter.
“It’s booming already,” he said of the high-tech community.
“That’s a big infrastructure part of our county. That’s quite a push in the economy and quite a push in homes coming in,” he said.
Dreams and visions for the redevelopment of Pasco County began more than two decades ago. Today, homes, shops, hotels, offices and medical campuses are coming out of the ground and redrawing the county’s future.
On March 1, developers of four of Pasco’s master-planned communities updated more than 100 people who came to the annual Meet the Developers breakfast. The Pasco Economic Development Council sponsored the event at the Marriott Residence Inn, off State Road 54.
In closing remarks, Bill Cronin, president of Pasco EDC said, “this is the right time, the right place for Pasco County…If nothing else, I hope you have that ‘oh, wow’ effect. That’s not the Pasco I knew.”
Speakers at the breakfast were Matt Call, project director at Starkey Ranch, which is being developed by Wheelock Communities; Tom Panaseny, vice president and general manager for Bexley by Newland Communities; J.D. Porter, president of sales and development of Wiregrass Ranch Inc.; and, Kartik Goyani, vice president of operations for Metro Development Group Inc.
“We’re all selling this dream and vision of where Pasco can go,” Call said.
Three years ago, Starkey Ranch, about four miles west of the Suncoast Parkway, off State Road 54, was largely still on the drawing board.
Today, Starkey Ranch anticipates having more than 300 new homes under contract in a year, Call said. So far, there have been more than 150 closings, he added.
The average price of homes being sold there is in the low to mid-$400,000s. The most expensive home — at about 4,800 square feet – sold within the past two weeks for about $874,000.
“Most are not first-time homebuyers,” Call said. “Most are moving-up buyers.”
Upcoming projects included widening Gunn Highway and extending the road into Starkey Ranch.
About one-third of a 20-mile trail system is built and will eventually connect with Jay B. Starkey Wilderness Preserve and the Suncoast Trail.
A business park, fronting State Road 54, is in the works. A town square is planned for 2018.
While Newland Communities is new to Pasco, its track record in Tampa Bay includes master-planned communities in Hillsborough County, including FishHawk Ranch in Riverview and Westchase in Town ‘n Country.
Panaseny described Newland as the largest private developer of planned communities in the country, with projects in 19 states, stretching from coast to coast.
The homebuilder’s first Pasco community is Bexley Ranch, in an area encompassing about 1,700 acres. It is located also on State Road 54, east of Suncoast Parkway.
The Bexley family is developing another 5,000 adjacent acres still under their control.
The Newland project is zoned for more than 1,700 homes; about 95,000 square feet of retail; and, more than 560,000 square feet of office, though that could increase to as much as 1 million square feet.
About five miles of a planned 13-mile trail system is built.
An elementary school now under construction is scheduled to open in August.
About 400 lots are available, with 400 additional lots expected to be ready by the end of the year. Twelve model homes are open for viewing.
Bexley also is planned for offices, shops and a hotel, as well as apartments and single-family homes.
A groundbreaking is anticipated in March for more than 300 apartments.
Access to Bexley currently is through the Ballantrae community to the east. But, within 60 to 90 days, Panaseny said Bexley Village Drive should open, with access directly off State Road 54.
The average home price is about $350,000.
“It’s been a strong market,” Panaseny said.
Upcoming projects include a medical facility, a Race Trac gas station and convenience store, and a 7-acre shopping center.
“We’d love to have a grocery store anchor the center, or possibly restaurants,” Panaseny said.
A Marriott hotel is expected to break ground in July.
There also is about 32 acres available for offices. “We very much want to bring Class A office space here,” he said.
Wiregrass Ranch is rebranding itself, with a new logo and a re-energized focus as new developments in the master-planned community emerge.
Wiregrass is the fastest growing community in the Tampa Bay area, said Porter, of Wiregrass Ranch Inc.
The property is zoned for 10,500 homes; 2.7 million square feet of retail; 2.6 million square feet of office; and 600 hotel beds. A middle school and a high school have been built. Additional retail and office space are planned.
Next to The Shops at Wiregrass, plans are underway for an expansion that will include high-end shops and boutiques, a cine bistro, a grocery store and apartments.
Raymond James Financial campus is expected to start construction later this year on a campus that could have about 1 million square feet of office space and an 1,800-space parking garage.
Medical facilities are filling up the surrounding area. They include Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel, Florida Medical Clinic and North Tampa Behavioral Health.
Beach House is an upscale assisted living facility under construction.
“You’re going to continue to see good, smart growth because it’s an environment people want to be in,” said Porter.
Metro Development Group is building a master-planned community at Epperson Ranch, which is part of a state-approved pilot program to create a Connected City corridor built with technology innovations. At build out, Metro is projecting about 37,000 homes; 12 million square-feet of office, retail and technology manufacturing; 100 miles of traffic lanes for self-driving vehicles; and two Crystal Lagoons.
The first lagoon at Epperson Ranch is a 7-acre, manmade pool of crystal blue water under construction at Epperson Ranch, off State Road 52 at Overpass Road. To the north, a second community, known as Mirada, is also planned with a larger Crystal Lagoon.
Metro controls about 35 percent of land within Connected City, which sets aside about 7,800 acres in northeastern Pasco. Metro and other developers are expected to build master-planned communities embedded with cutting-edge technology, and focused on creating technology driven jobs and new businesses.
A groundbreaking for the Crystal Lagoon at Epperson happened in February. The lagoon is expected to be complete by the end of 2017. In the first weeks, 15 homes have sold, and there is a waiting list of more than 1,000 people who want to buy, said Kartik Goyani, vice president of operations for Metro.
A champagne toast and tethered hot-air balloon rides heralded the groundbreaking for a 7-acre manmade Crystal Lagoon that — when finished — will be large enough for six football fields, end to end.
In the background, construction workers stirred dust and hammered nails into model homes for the first master-planned community in Epperson Ranch, along the Connected City corridor. The Crystal Lagoon is the splashy jewel at the center of Epperson.
Connected City, if successful, could become Pasco’s economic jewel.
Pasco County commissioners voted unanimously on Feb. 7 to approve the framework to establish the Connected City, as a state-approved 10-year pilot program to foster a technology-based “city of the future.”
At its 50-year build out, the Connected City is expected to have more than 96,000 residents within multiple neighborhoods; 37,000 homes and apartments; as many as 7.2 million square feet of employment facilities; and, a role-model reputation for technology innovation.
But, for now, all eyes are on Epperson and the Crystal Lagoon in northeastern Pasco, at Curley and Overpass roads. The mammoth swimming pool, with clear blue, see-through waters, is a global phenomenon, with locations in Chile and Cabo San Lucas in Mexico. Pasco’s Crystal Lagoon will be the first in the nation.
“It’s like swimming in a bottle of Zephyrhills water,” said Greg Singleton, president of Metro Development Group. “It’s so incredibly clear.”
It took more than two years of planning, workshops and negotiations to reach the groundbreaking at Epperson on Feb. 2, followed by the Connected City vote nearly a week later.
“It was worth the time. I say congratulations to everybody,” said Pasco County Commission Chairman Mike Moore. “I think we’ll see great things for our neighborhoods. All eyes are going to be upon us now. People will be coming to Pasco County, to follow suit.”
State lawmakers carved out about 7,800 acres in northeastern Pasco, in 2015, for a special development district. The boundaries are Interstate 75, State Road 52, and Curley and Overpass roads.
State law, and now county approval, set in motion a 10-year pilot program to encourage mixed-use development projects and master-planned communities built from the ground up with cutting edge technology.
“At the end of the day, I feel it’s the right thing for the county,” said Pasco County Commissioner Mike Wells. “It comes down to job creation for me.”
Still, the excitement level created by Connected City isn’t shared by everyone.
Resident Jennifer McCarthy has been a frequent critic of Connected City at prior meetings. She and her husband, Chris McCarthy, attended the final hearing on Feb. 2, but neither spoke during public comment.
They both remain worried about property rights of residents who have lived in the area for decades. Increased traffic is another issue, especially on Kenton Road where they live.
They also aren’t convinced that the area can become another technology-heavy Silicon Valley.
“This isn’t California,” said Jennifer McCarthy.
Resident Nancy Hazelwood worries about preserving the rural character of the area.
She objected when county commissioners voted to carve out a portion of the Villages of Pasadena Hills, and to add it into Connected City boundaries.
County commissioners said that made sense because the state-drawn boundaries overlapped into one of the Villages’ neighborhoods.
It was the third time, Hazelwood said, that the county gave up rural land to accommodate urban development.
“You keep taking things from what we were given at one time,” she said.
Change is coming.
Metro Development Group anticipates completion of the lagoon in 2017, with the opening of model homes in late 2017 or early 2018.
Metro Development Group is working in a public-private partnership with Pasco County on the initial development within Connected City. The development company controls about 35 percent of the targeted area.
A second community – known as Mirada – is planned by Metro Development Group, along with a second Crystal Lagoon of more than 10 acres.
In return for meeting more than 50 development criteria, the county is offering mobility fee credits and a faster-than-usual review process to Connected City projects.
Technology is the premier feature in what is expected to entice high-paying jobs to Pasco.
The vision is for the entire area to become a northern gateway into the Tampa Bay region, with links to commerce and education centers to the south, including the research-oriented University of South Florida.
“I am doing everything I can to hook them up with tech companies,” said Pasco County Commissioner Kathryn Starkey.
A final decision on an ambitious technology-driven community in eastern Pasco County – known as Connected City – is at hand.
The Pasco County Commission will have a final public hearing on the project on Feb. 7 at 1:30 p.m., in Dade City.
The first public hearing on Jan. 24 offered a review of the project and an opportunity for public comment.
Pasco County and Metro Development Group are partnering on a 10-year pilot project, authorized by state law. About 7,800 acres were set aside for development projects that encourage advanced technology and high-wage jobs.
The area is bordered by Interstate 75, State Road 52 and Curley and Overpass roads.
Metro is the first to offer a development project for the area. More developers are expected to take part in Connected City in the future.
“This project arguably is one of the leading technology designs in the country right now,” said Kris Hughes, the county’s planning and development administrator. “It sets new standards for physical development. It makes Pasco highly competitive and attractive as a place to live and work.”
Several people spoke during public comment on Jan. 24. Most supported Connected City.
“I feel the benefits outweigh the concerns brought up,” said resident Dawn Newsome. “I’m excited to see the opportunities that Connected City offers us.”
Too many younger Pasco residents leave home to find good-paying jobs, but that could change with Connected City, she said.
Hope Allen, president of The Greater Wesley Chapel Chamber of Commerce, offered a letter of support from the chamber’s board. She said the project would bring jobs, new housing, economic development and entrepreneurship to Pasco.
Resident Jennifer McCarthy had concerns about property rights of people who have lived in the area for generations. She also worried about increasing traffic congestion.
At build-out in 50 years, Connected City is expected to have a population of about 96,000 residents, living in about 37,000 homes and apartments. About 7.2 million square feet of space will be available for job creation.
“At best, Connected City is going to generate jobs that aren’t just retail and construction,” McCarthy said. “At worst, it adds to the urban sprawl that already plagues the area.”
During a video presentation, Metro developers provided new details on their plans.
A groundbreaking for the manmade Crystal Lagoon at Epperson Ranch will be on Feb. 2. The mixed-use, master-planned community is within Connected City boundaries.
The 7-acre lagoon, with crystal blue waters, is creating a buzz with companies that want to locate within the Epperson community, said Kartik Goyani, vice president of operations with Metro.
To meet demand, Metro now is planning a second and larger lagoon on the northern portion of the site, Goyani said.
Metro previously announced partnerships with Saint Leo University for an education center within Connected City. In addition, Florida Hospital and Tampa General Hospital plan to set up a new medical partnership in Connected City.
Meridian Autonomous Systems will provide support for self-driving and electrical vehicles.
“We are going to be at the forefront of this technology,” Goyani said.
Metro also is developing technology to operate street lights on solar and wind power.
The Museum of Science & Industry (MOSI) will partner with Metro to integrate learning activities into Connected City. Goyani also said the nonprofit is planning a $1 million exhibit on Connected City in 2017.
And, job creation already is coming into focus.
On Jan. 30, Metro Places had a job fair at Pasco-Hernando State College where more than 400 jobs were available.
“We hope to make this an annual event,” Goyani said.
Metro Development Group is finalizing its team of partners for what is billed as “the city of the future.”
Florida Hospital and Tampa General will be setting up a new medical partnership in the Connected City called West Florida Health.
Meridian Autonomous Systems will be providing self-driving and electrical vehicles.
And, Saint Leo University will be creating a new education center.
Connected City is a master-planned community in eastern Pasco County that promises the fastest Internet and WiFi speeds in the nation.
Over a year and a half, Metro developers and Pasco County have fashioned a public/private partnership for a 10-year pilot project, authorized by state law.
It sweeps in about 7,800 acres bordered by Interstate 75, State Road 52, State Road 54 and Curley and Overpass roads. Metro controls about 35 percent of land targeted for development.
On Jan. 17, Metro put its partners on display at a workshop for Pasco County commissioners.
Six speakers outlined plans to embed state-of-the-art technology into every feature of Metro’s initial development within Connected City.
“It’s all about trying to encourage entrepreneurship in the field of technology, and high-wage jobs in Pasco County,” said Kris Hughes, the county’s planning and development administrator.
During the presentation, both Metro and county officials acknowledged some details on the oversight of Connected City remain a work-in-progress.
County commissioners agreed to jettison a proposed special management committee. Its seven members, including three people appointed by Metro, would have replaced the usual pre-approval route through the county’s development review committee and planning commission.
“I didn’t really like that setup,” said Pasco County Commissioner Jack Mariano. “I think it’s probably good for us not having the committee.”
Pasco County Chairman Mike Moore suggested a future workshop to reconsider how to make the review process work fairly for everyone.
However, land use attorney Joel Tew noted that the state, in crafting the pilot program, had mandated an expedited review process for Connected City.
“I do think we’ll get in trouble if we don’t set up a new development review board,” Tew said.
The first public hearing for Connected City was scheduled for Jan. 24, after The Laker/Lutz News press deadline.
The final public hearing is scheduled for Feb. 7.
Metro currently is constructing its first community within Connected City at Epperson Ranch, at Overpass and Curley roads.
A 7-acre, manmade Crystal Lagoon will be built there, along with thousands of homes, a town center, offices and retail.
Plans for the wellness district, operated by Florida Hospital and Tampa General, include advanced research facilities, an innovation center, and a medical hospital with a med-spa and a health and performance institute, according to details included in a news release.
Details and a name for the health care campus will be released at a later date.
“Our goal is to change the way we deliver care,” said Gino Casanova, director of administrative and governmental affairs at Florida Hospital.
Other Connected City partners include The Broadband Group and the nonprofit US Ignite.
“We’re looking forward to the growth and development of this project,” said Ed Dadez, vice president of continuing education and student services at Saint Leo University.
The university already operates about 40 education centers in seven states, Dadez said.
“An education center is like a small college,” he said. “Saint Leo would be the anchor institution on site (at Connected City).”
Matthew Lesh, Meridian’s chief commercial officer, said his company focuses on high-tech solutions for the development of self-driving and electrical vehicles, as well as robotics and automation.
For instance, Meridian did programming for Olli, a self-driving shuttle from Local Motors.
Asked if Meridian would bring manufacturing jobs to Pasco, Lesh said, “I think we’re wide open to that.”
About 100 residents had the chance to see the design for a proposal to widen and extend Overpass Road at a public hearing on Dec. 15, but the project is years away from construction.
The project, estimated at $220 million, calls for widening and extending Overpass Road, aligning it with Fairview Heights and Kossik roads, and building a new Interstate 75 interchange.
The nearly 9-mile project is driven by a rapidly changing landscape that developers are tapping into for homes, employment centers and shops.
The proposed plan was outlined at the public hearing at the First Congregation Church of Zephyrhills.
In addition to a new I-75 interchange, the road would be widened to four lanes, or six lanes in some sections, from Old Pasco Road to U.S. 301 in Zephyrhills. Construction on the interchange – the only partially funded phase of the project – is scheduled in 2020.
Pasco County has about $32 million budgeted for the estimated $64 million interchange. Additional state funds will be sought in 2017.
Pasco, with the Florida Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration, is completing a study of the project before committing to its construction.
A no-build alternative also is an option.
A decision is anticipated by spring 2017.
At the hearing, residents could view maps and ask questions. They also viewed a video explaining the project.
During a public comment period, one property owner raised concern about access to property abutting I-75. Others opted instead for written comments, which were accepted by the state department of transportation through Dec. 27.
Many people at the meeting had questions about construction, increasing traffic and future plans to buy right-of-way.
Lorri and David Blommel, who live off Kossik Road, had mixed views of the project.
Lori Blommel had some questions: “How are we going to get out of our little place across four lanes of highway? How’s that going to work?”
But, an improved roadway, with an Overpass extension, also would provide a quicker, more direct route to Wesley Chapel.
David Blommel said a 30-minute trip could be shortened to 10 minutes.
The entire length of roadway is quickly transforming. Vacant land is becoming home to new subdivisions to join existing ones, such as the Villages at Pasadena Hills.
Metro Development Group recently broke ground on a 7-acre manmade Crystal Lagoon on Epperson Ranch at Overpass and Curley roads. The master-planned community will add thousands of homes, as well as employment opportunities to the area as part of the state-approved Connected City corridor.
The state’s 10-year pilot program focuses on about 7,800 acres to encourage development of new neighborhoods and stimulate job growth with cutting edge technology. Total build out is about 50 years into the future.
Currently, Overpass is an east-west road that runs from Old Pasco Road to just less than a mile east of Boyette Road. The road falls between State Road 52 and County Road 54. It crosses I-75, but it isn’t connected to the interstate.
The project would widen Overpass from two lanes to four lanes, from Old Pasco to I-75. A diverging diamond interchange would be built with a connection to Overpass.
In addition, Blair Drive, which currently links to Overpass near I-75, would be closed. A new, two-lane paved road would be built with a connection to Old Pasco.
When the Overpass extension is complete, the road would intersect with Handcart Road. From there, the road name changes to Fairview Heights Road and later becomes Kossik Road. The project ends where Kossik intersects with U.S. 301 in Zephyrhills.
Plans, long range, are to widen Overpass Road from I-75 to Boyette Road to six lanes, plus two auxiliary lanes. From Boyette Road to U.S. 301, the road also would widen to six lanes.
The project dates to 2003 and the Overpass Road Route Study. Since then, the plan has taken shape from additional studies and public workshops.