The City of Zephyrhills is experiencing booming growth and development that includes thousands of new homes and myriad commercial projects — and that’s on top of a newfound tourism and visitor rush felt with the opening of the $4.9 million Sarah Vande Berg Tennis & Wellness Center, at 6585 Simons Road.
As the city begins to add new population and outsiders, concerns are increasing about the ability of the city’s road ways being able to sustain traffic arising from all the happenings in the small East Pasco town.
Those qualms were front and center at a Zephyrhills City Council meeting last month.
“We’re having tremendous growth right now, and I think it’s really hard to stay ahead of it, I really do, from a traffic management standpoint,” Councilman Lance Smith said.
“We see it in (Pasco County). In the county we see the lag that’s happened, and my gosh, how long have they been working on (State Road) 54, adding additional lanes? I’m just concerned that we stay ahead of it,” the councilman said.
Smith directed attention to the Abbott Square development that will add some 700 units surrounding the new tennis center on Simons Road.
The roadway is already becoming a problem with motorists trying to make left-hand turns off the Simons Road/Eiland Boulevard intersection, without a traffic signal, he said.
He also observed “cars stacked up turning left” during a recent event at the tennis complex, therefore increasing the likelihood of accidents and wrecks.
“People get frustrated when they can’t make that left-hand turn, and they’re willing to take a chance when they do that,” Smith said. “We need to do something.”
In response, Zephyrhills City Manager Billy Poe explained a signalized intersection improvement is tied into a developer’s agreement with the Abbott Square homebuilder, Lennar Corporation. Meanwhile, the city is looking to time up those signalized improvements and connect Simons Road into Fort King Road by the end of 2021, Poe said.
Smith credited city staff for “doing a really good job” with facilitating various development projects — along with getting some transportation projects in the pipeline, such as the busy U.S. 301/Pretty Pond Road and County Road 54/U.S. 301 intersections.
But he cautioned that those involved must think of any potential issues that might result before construction actually begins on a particular project: “Just put on your thinking cap when you’re looking at these developments, ‘How’s it going to impact the road network around it?’”
Smith brought up the example of consulting engineers not including a right-hand turn lane into the recent State Road 56/Morris Bridge Road project.
He said: “Let’s try and avoid (those mistakes). Somebody holler and say, ‘Hey, you forgot this.’ It’s a shame to open up a new road and have these goat trails on the side where people are coming up and making their own right-hand turn lane.”
Meanwhile, another Zephyrhills roadway issue brewing is the sustainability of Wire Road. Nearby construction is afoot on Abbott Park, a 500-plus unit development popping up on the site of the former Gore Dairy Supply property.
Councilman Alan Knight observed: “Wire Road’s taking a beating already and you know with the new people coming in, and we’re looking at 500 homes — whew, it’s going to be tough (to maintain).”
Poe explained that Wire Road is scheduled to be repaved at some point but has been pushed back due to Abbott Park’s construction. Also, Poe said city officials are having internal discussions to find some way to get a utility transmission pole relocated, so that Wire Road can be connected with Kossik Road. There’s also designed plans — but not yet budgeted — for Dairy Road to be extended north to connect with Kossik Road, the city manager said.
Meanwhile, Knight and other council members called for additional funding and resources to move such transportation projects forward.
Knight, for one, made a vocal plea for more help from the Pasco County Commission: “There’s a lot of money coming from our county commissioners that are going other areas…and some of that money needs to come to us. I’ll be the first to be very vocal about it. I see where a lot is going to Wesley Chapel; I understand the growth. I understand a lots going, but Zephyrhills needs to get some of that money. We need to get some improvements. We’re growing at a rate that’s unreal.”
Council President Charles Proctor echoed those sentiments: “This city is growing so fast. We all lived here a long time and I believe we’re doing our best to stay ahead of it, but we definitely need to work with the state and with the county to stay ahead of it.”
Published January 13, 2021