The Pasco County Commission has approved the North Pasco RV Resort, a development that is planned for 550 RV spaces, and at least 10,000 square feet of resort lodge and clubhouse facilities.
Commissioners voted 3-1 to rezone the land from agricultural uses to a planned development. Commissioner Christina Fitzpatrick dissented and Commissioner Jack Mariano was absent.
The approval came despite urgings for the county board to deny the request from opponents who characterized it as a threat to the rural way of life.
The 132-acre site, bordering Interstate 75, east of Lake Iola Road and south of Blanton Road, is within the county’s Northeast Pasco Rural Protection Overlay Area.
The overlay district is intended to protect the character of the rural landscape, preserve scenic views and vistas, and ensure that on-site development is compatible with the character of the surrounding area, according to the county ordinance that established the district.
Lisa Moretti, who lives on Iola Woods Trail, spoke against the request and submitted documents detailing why the board should vote against the RV resort.
“I’m affected by this development. It will greatly impact my life and the life of those in our community,” said Moretti, who also questioned the legality of the proposed change.
Moretti told commissioners: “It’s important that you see the will of the community. This amendment will not benefit the rural area economically, culturally or in any other way. It will endanger our visitors, our wildlife, our water supply, our property values and our community lifestyle.”
She concluded by saying: “We built a community, I ask that you don’t let him (developer) tear it down.”
Nancy Hazelwood, active for year in efforts to protect the Northeast Rural area, put her objections plainly: “This thing just does not fit in a rural area. It’s going to stick out like a sore thumb.”
Margaret Woods, who lives on St. Joe Road, in Dade City, raised a question about whether it was appropriate for Commissioner Ron Oakley to be involved in the process.
“Mr. Oakley has not recused himself even though there appears to be a conflict of interest on his part, with regard to this property and with the project, itself.
“The property was owned and sold by his sister. He’s been actively involved in promoting this RV park, from the very beginning, even at the neighborhood meeting, he was there, promoting the RV park,” Woods said.
“So, in the appearance of impartiality, ethics and transparency, I believe that Mr. Oakley should recuse himself from both discussion and voting on this matter.”
Commission Chairwoman Kathryn Starkey asked County Attorney Jeffrey Steinsnyder for a ruling on the issue.
Steinsnyder addressed Oakley: “Commissioner Oakley, I understand from previous discussions that you had a family member that previously owned this property, it was sold not contingent upon any future approvals by the board. Correct? So, it wasn’t a zoning-contingent contract.”
Oakley: “I didn’t even know the property was up for sale at the time, and it sold. I never met the new owner until two or three months after it had closed.”
Steinsnyder: “So that transaction is done, and under state law, you have no conflict.”
Starkey, then addressed Oakley: “OK. So, legally, you must vote.”
Attorney Barbara Wilhite represented the applicants, VCARE Consultants LLC.
VCARE also hired Frances Chandler Marino, who wrote the Northeast Pasco Rural Protection Overlay Area plan, to review the proposed plan for compliance with the rural plan.
The plans, which are binding as part of the conditions, include substantial landscaping — including an internal master landscape and tree plan, extensive buffering along Lake Iola Road and landscaping for each RV stall.
Conditions also address how the site will be graded; prohibit mining; require the splashpads to be recirculated; require a 6-foot paved shoulder extending beyond the property to accommodate bicyclists riding in the area; limit the height of the building to two stories; and require a sewage treatment plant for the project.
Wilhite also suggested the board make a finding of fact, in the ordinance, specifically stating that the request is compatible because of the project’s proximity to I-75.
The attorney said she heard both Marino and county staff cite the fact that the site is next to a busy highway, as a reason for supporting the request.
Wilhite said she realizes that residents are concerned about setting precedent, and noted that adding that language could address that concern.
But Hazelwood rejected that rationale.
“The I-75 reason for an RV park just doesn’t make sense,” Hazelwood said.
“I participated from the beginning, in the rural area plan. We would have never agreed to the rural area plan if we had said, ‘Hey, right through the middle of the plan we’re going to have high density because you’ve got an interstate.’ Nobody told us that.
“We hope that I-75 does not encourage more,” Hazelwood said.
In voting against the rezoning, Fitzpatrick said she didn’t feel “that this is the original expectations of the Northeast Rural Area protection plan.”
Published April 13, 2022