The Pasco County Commission has cleared the way for the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation to create a neighborhood in Land O’ Lakes devoted to recipients of mortgage-free homes for catastrophically injured veterans, for surviving widows and children of fallen military and first responders.
“The Let Us Do Good Village, which is what we are calling our development, is a community created by our foundation, which is going to bring these families together,” said Matthew Mahoney, executive vice president of the foundation, at the county board’s June 8 meeting.
It will be the first development of its type in the country, created by a foundation that began 20 years ago, in the aftermath of Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The foundation is named after Stephen Siller, a firefighter who had finished his shift and was on his way home when the attacks occurred at the Twin Towers.
Instead of going home, the firefighter turned around and headed back toward Lower Manhattan.
When he wasn’t able to drive into the area because of the emergency, Mahoney said, “Stephen donned over 60 pounds of firefighting gear on his back and ran over 2 miles to the World Trade Center, ultimately losing his life that day at the South Tower.”
Siller was one of 343 firefighters who perished, of the 406 first responders lost that day, Mahoney said. He left behind five young children.
The foundation provides mortgage-free homes for recipients in its Smart Home, Fallen First Responders and Gold Star Family programs.
Typically, it either provides mortgage-free homes or pays off the mortgage, he said. By the end of this year, it will have paid off or provided 400 homes.
The Let Us Do Good Village will be created on about 75 acres, on the south side of Parkway Boulevard, about a half-mile east of Ehren Cutoff.
It will include specially adapted one-floor homes, on 100-foot-wide lots, for catastrophically injured veterans, the foundation’s Smart Home Program.
It also will provide two-story homes, on 60-foot lots, through its Fallen First Responders Program and through its Gold Star Family program.
The foundation believes that bringing these families together will help them to recover, Mahoney said.
“Their children are going to be able to grow up, where other children don’t have a dad, or other children don’t have a mom — because of their service,” the foundation executive said.
The county board’s unanimous approval came after the foundation agreed a number of concessions, which will be recorded through a deed restriction.
That deed restriction limits the development to 103 lots, said Cyndi Tarapani, a planning consultant representing the foundation.
The reduction in lots equates to an overall density of the development of about two homes per acre, she said.
The deed restriction also specifies that a 6-foot fence will be installed to separate the new neighborhood from the adjacent Panther Run and Dupree Lakes subdivisions, she said.
The development also will include a number of other amenities for its residents, including a clubhouse and neighborhood park, Tarapani added.
Mahoney said the foundation also plans to plant trees in backyards.
“We want to ensure privacy for our neighbors, and, of course, for our widows and children,” he said.
The foundation, technically, was not required to provide a deed restriction, according to the county’s legal staff.
However, neighbors in Panther Run had pushed back against the project, voicing objections based on concerns about compatibility and potential loss of privacy.
Pasco Planning Commission members also expressed misgivings about the compatibility, ultimately recommending denial of the application.
After the Planning Commission’s action, the foundation agreed to include additional concessions in its deed restriction — including reducing the number of lots on the Panther Run border, making most of those lots 100-feet wide and developing most of them with single-story homes.
“The foundation has made significant commitments along that common border with Panther Run to address their concerns. We believe we’ve gone above and beyond, in our efforts, to be good neighbors,” Tarapani said.
In general, some neighbors still voiced concerns about privacy issues and the intensity of the underlying zoning for the project.
But fewer residents expressed objections during the county board meeting than did at the planning commission meeting.
Panther Run resident Shelby Carrero, of 6448 Paw Place, thanked county commissioners for meeting with her to discuss the issue. She also thanked Tunnel to Towers Foundation for working with the neighbors.
“I think that we have finally come up with a compromise on both sides,” Carrero said.
Like many of the new development’s future neighbors, she supports the foundation’s work.
“I greatly, greatly appreciate that,” she said.
She’s also looking forward to the new community which the foundation will build.
“I think we couldn’t ask for better neighbors,” she said, adding, “we are excited to see what they are going to do.”
Pasco County Commissioners also expressed enthusiasm for the planned “Let Us Do Good Village.”
“I thank you for coming before the board with such a great project,” County Commissioner Jack Mariano said.
He also expressed appreciation to the foundation, for listening to the neighbors.
“I think you’re making yourself fit in real well,” Mariano said.
Commission Chairman Ron Oakley agreed: “You’ve all done a good job in answering the public — the neighbors of that project.”
Commissioner Kathryn Starkey put it like this: “I’m very proud that we’re going to have this in our county.”
Published June 16, 2021