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.
Published February 1, 2017