Developers and residents often clash when it comes to land issues.
But, on two issues involving roads relating to a proposed 55-and-older, gated community — there was a rare moment when both sides agreed.
And, the developers and residents got the response they wanted from Pasco County commissioners, too.
One issue involved eliminating the extension of Five Farms Avenue, that would connect Country Walk subdivision to the adult community planned in adjacent Wiregrass Ranch.
The other issue involves privatizing a public collector road to be gated and privatized, within the 55-and-older community.
Commissioners sided with the developer and residents on both issues.
In doing so, they voted 4-1 to overrule the county’s Development Review Committee recommendation regarding both roads.
The review committee wanted to allow the extension of Five Farms Avenue, which dead-ends in Country Walk, into the proposed Wiregrass neighborhood.
The committee also wanted to prevent the privatizing of a public collector road in the active adult neighborhood.
Pasco County Commissioner Kathryn Starkey was the only commissioner who sided with the development review committee’s recommendations.
“I have always been supportive of our planning process to connect neighborhoods to each other,” Starkey said. “I just think it’s Planning 101 to connect neighborhoods.”
But, not in this case, said Bill Merrill, a Sarasota attorney representing Locust Branch LLC, the developer for the 55-and- older community.
Opening up Five Farms would create connections to Country Pointe Boulevard and then to Meadow Pointe Boulevard, Merrill said.
“This is going to be a speedway through the residential portion of the neighborhood,” Merrill said. “I think we need to pull back sometimes. What makes sense here?”
But, Kris Hughes, the county’s planning and development director, said the county seeks to increase connections between neighborhoods. Such connections help “to get people efficiently out of their homes” for public health and safety reasons, and reduce traffic on major roadways, Hughes said.
“The idea is to create some semblance of a grid pattern in these neighborhoods to provide inner movement internal to the system at appropriate scales and for significant relief from arterial (roads),” Hughes said.
County staff also has to look not only at neighborhood streets but the larger picture of how they impact the entire road system, he added.
Most county commissioners said they want to encourage more 55-and-older communities. And, Starkey said she isn’t opposed to gated communities.
“You’re not going to get one that’s not gated,” said Pasco County Commission Chairman Mike Moore. “They want their privacy.”
Pasco County Commissioner Mike Wells said the Wiregrass project is a good one.
“Folks like to have gated communities,” Wells said.
Published May 17, 2017