As Pasco County works to update its comprehensive plans, themes have been emerging through listening sessions, according to a consultant working with the county on the Pasco 2050 update.
Pasco residents primarily identify as being residents within a specific community, said Steve Schukraft, a planner with HDR Inc., the consultants working on the county’s plan update.
There’s “a very diverse set of perspectives and a diverse set of ideas about what their life is like in their community and how they see the county, overall,” he said.
Schukraft shared some of the key issues that have emerged during the listening sessions with members of the Pasco County Planning Commission, during a June 16 workshop.
He also shared information gleaned from reviews of previous engagement efforts by the county, and from a review of the county’s planning practices and documents.
Plus, he opened the discussion up to the planning board’s thoughts on issues they think must be addressed in the Pasco 2050 plan.
One topic that’s been raised repeatedly during the listening sessions is a concern about the impacts from rapid growth on community character and compatibility, Schukraft said.
He also told the planning board: “An observation that we would make is that there’s not a real clear sense among the general public about what the comprehensive plan calls for. So, they’ll see development on the side of the road that is perfectly in line with what the comp plan calls for and what zoning allows — they’re just upset because it represents a change in their day-to-day life,” he said.
“People talked a lot about their concern when they see a site cleared for development, when they see corridors getting more development and getting more dense over time,” he said.
“People don’t know where the line is drawn now between the more suburban future land use categories and the rural categories,” he noted.
Opinions about life in Pasco vary widely, depending on where people live, he added.
“We heard from people in the new large-scale master-planned communities (who said) that they had the best quality of life of anyone in the country. We had some people in some other communities who felt they were kind of falling behind, that they didn’t have the advantages of other folks in the county — they didn’t have the same quality of facilities, same accessibility. So, there was a big divergence in perspectives.”
One big theme that came up centered on “protecting and conserving rural communities and landscapes.
“We heard that often. We heard that throughout the county,” Schukraft said.
The consultant said he thinks for many, it’s an issue of visual impact.
His sense of their sentiment was this: “I like my open views. I like the rolling hills in Northeast Pasco and I don’t want those developed.”
Planning board member Chris Williams told Schukraft: “As somebody who lives in the Dade City area and lives on a rolling hill and has an open view, those (statements) ring true to me.”
But David Goldstein, chief assistant county attorney, noted: “The people who are saying, we need to protect our rural area, where are they suggesting that growth go? You can’t say, ‘We want no growth.’”
Work on comprehensive plan update is in early stages
Schukraft told the planning board, at this point in the process, he was merely presenting what was heard in the listening sessions and what has been gleaned from reviewing previous county engagement efforts,
The research being done also includes a look at the county’s demographics and socioeconomics; land use development conditions; mobility; a review of existing planning and policy framework; a market analysis to look at where the market opportunities are; strengths and weakness in Pasco’s market position; and, some planning best practices.
Charles Grey, the planning board’s chairman raised an issue that bothers him.
“It really turns me off when I drive by a nice wooded piece of property and then the next day I drive by and it’s leveled, there’s not a tree on the site.
“I’ve seen them tear out 500-year-old oak trees to put in a car wash. That doesn’t make sense to me,” Grey said.
He’d also like to see what can be done to encourage redevelopment.
“There’s plenty of areas that could be redeveloped. From a practical point of view, how do you do it?” Grey asked.
Schukraft noted the negative impacts caused by congestion.
“One of the direct impacts of development is traffic and most of the county is developed in auto-oriented fashion, so to get a gallon of milk, or to get your kid to school or to get to work, you’re driving.
“So, you’re in a car and you experience the county in a car to meet most of your daily and weekly needs.
“We need to look really carefully about how we accommodate those additional trips on the network with already constrained capacity,” Schukraft said.
Planning board member Don Anderson addressed the shortage of affordable housing.
He told Schukraft: “There’s already tenants being displaced because people are moving into the area. People who have lived here, were raised here, are actually being displaced because of the increase in rents.”
Schukraft responded: “People are bringing fat checkbooks into the region and pricing folks out.”
“And then just the movement from folks getting priced out of Hillsborough and Pinellas, coming up to Pasco to try to find cheap housing is putting pressure on the market, too. Some of it has to do with raw supply. The market needs to probably be producing twice the amount of houses per week or month, or units per week or month to meet that demand. And, that ramp-up hasn’t happened yet.”
If you would like to know more about Pasco County’s comprehensive plan update efforts, visit Pasco2050.com.
Published July 06, 2022