In the end, a majority of the Pasco County Planning Commission voted to recommend denial of a rezoning requested for a 109-home subdivision in Land O’ Lakes.
The proposed site for the development is on the southwest and northwest corner of the Hale Road and Collier Parkway intersection, straddling Hale Road. It is approximately 5,700 feet east of U.S. 41, according to documents contained in the planning board’s Sept. 22 agenda packet.
The planning board voted 3-2 to recommend denial.
That vote followed about four hours of testimony, with representatives for the applicant claiming the proposed single-family development is compatible with the sea of single-family developments surrounding it.
Opponents questioned the claim of compatibility, raised issues about Hale Road’s ability to handle the additional traffic, voiced concerns about potential environmental damage that could arise and cautioned against setting a precedent for increased development on similar properties on Hale Road.
In calling for denial, the planning board cited Hale Road’s substandard road conditions, incompatibility with surrounding development, and other issues.
County planners, however, had recommended approval of the request.
Next, the Pasco County Commission will consider the request. It has final jurisdiction on land use and zoning issues.
Cyndi Tarapani, of Tarapani Planning Strategies, represented KB Home, at the planning board’s meeting.
She told the planning board: “We believe we made every reasonable effort to be a good neighbor.”
The future land use designation for the property allows up to six homes per acre, Tarapani noted. This proposal calls for 2.5 homes per acre.
The future land use designation would allow up to 214 homes. The applicant’s initial request was for 150, but that has since been reduced to 109, Tarapani said.
The developer also plans to use 50-foot lots on areas adjacent to neighboring subdivisions and plans to provide buffering, even though none is required, the professional planner added.
Plus, the developer will pay $281,600 to mitigate traffic impacts and will provide a left-turn lane into the property, she said.
But none of the developer’s changes appeased the opposition.
Opponents came ready for battle
An army of objectors — many wearing green shirts and some carrying signs — turned out to the public hearing.
The contingent included students from Land O’ Lakes High School who argued against the rezoning, based on research showing potential environmental threats.
Opponents repeatedly raised concerns about safety hazards on Hale Road, which the county deems a substandard road.
Mike Della-Penna, who lives nearby, said: “There haven’t been many improvements on Hale Road in the 32 years I’ve lived there and I don’t expect many to be happening.”
Others said the proposed density is contrary to existing lot sizes in nearby developments.
“You have an established pattern of development on Hale Road, and these lots don’t meet that standard,” said Lisa Moretti, who opposes the rezoning.
Moretti cited eight approved developments on Hale Road, which have larger lot sizes.
“The proposed development is 109 lots, over 2 ½ times as many as the largest approved development already there and over five times greater than the average approved development,” Moretti said.
“This (proposed) development is totally an aberration of compatibility,” Moretti said.
Dr. T.H. Culhane, another opponent, stepped up to the podium wearing a Patel College of Global Sustainability T-shirt.
“I request, respectfully, that you recommend denial for this land-grab application for this last tiny refuge of wildlife, this last sanctuary of sanity, in an increasingly sprawl-filled neighborhood,” said Culhane, a University of South Florida professor.
Culhane talked about working for six years at the Rosebud Continuum, at 22843 Hale Road. It’s a place that focuses on promoting sustainable living practices.
“I and my professional colleagues — graduate students — have conducted landscape research, habitat restoration and wildlife surveys.
“We’ve worked hard on invasive species removal and repatriation of Florida native plants and wildlife,” Culhane said.
“I scuba-dived Lake Rosebud to observe the alligators and fish, therein, and watched and delighted with the sandhill crane families and gopher tortoises that are all over making their nests, now that we’ve re-wilded the property.”
The Rosebud Continuum relies on the area’s existing character, he said.
“On the world stage, we know we can be far more innovative than the current Hale proposal,” said Culhane, who told the planning board he holds a master’s degree and PhD in urban planning from the University of California Los Angeles.
Michelle Dillard, a nearby resident, raised concerns about the potential runoff causing pollution of nearby lakes. Residents near King Lake already have spent thousands to improve the water quality in that lake, she said.
“We have to keep our lakes safe. We have to keep them alive,” Dillard said.
Speakers asked the planning board to protect the interest of current residents, rather than accommodating developers.
Brian Bishop — whose mother, Maryann Bishop, owns the property occupied by the Rosebud Continuum — said he’s concerned about adding traffic to Hale Road.
“I think we’ve already established that the situation on Hale Road is not a desirable one,” he said. “To me, this is a no-brainer.”
He asked the planning board to not allow KB Home “to make a bad situation worse.”
One resident invited the planning board members to come out to the area to watch traffic when school lets out. She said there’s one particular bicyclist, who has a large backpack on — that she’s seen nearly get hit on more than one occasion.
Russell Watrous, another rezoning opponent, voiced concerns about a potential precedent being set by approval of this request.
“There are four pieces of property on Hale Road, very similar to the one KB Home wants to develop right now,” he said. “We’re at a turning point in Land O’ Lakes, and you can see it. Almost every one of these feeder roads and back, secondary roads are being developed,” Watrous said.
Published September 28, 2022