Residents living near Lake Thomas continue to oppose an increase in the density of development in their Land O’ Lakes community.
A proposed land use change would increase the maximum density from three dwellings per acre to six dwellings per acre, on a 42-acre site, on the west side of U.S. 41 about one-half mile north of Ehren Cutoff.
The Pasco County Commission signaled its support for the increased intensity, in a 4-0 vote to transmit the land use request for a review by state agencies. Commission Chairman Mike Moore was out ill.
Once the state completes its review, the request will come back to the county board for final action.
At that point, commissioners also are expected to consider a rezoning request on the same site that would allow 218 townhomes.
Commissioners supported the transmittal despite passionate objections by area residents.
Eight speakers appeared in opposition to the request.
They cited concerns about setting a dangerous precedent.
Ed Bly, of Little Lake Thomas Road, told commissioners, “today’s vote is not about 218 townhomes in Land O’ Lakes.
“In fact, 99% of Pasco residents have no idea the ramifications of today’s vote and its impact on the older, established communities throughout the county.
“Today’s decision will allow developers to bundle properties together in the old, established communities and then request to double the density of said properties. This will create a trend that will affect all of the older, established communities in Pasco County whether they are in Shady Hills, New Port Richey, Dade City or Zephyrhills,” he said.
“Today, I appeal to think of the older established neighborhoods in your districts and to think of the impact that today’s vote will have on them. Because it is these communities that make Pasco an appealing place to live and they deserve to be protected from this type of rezoning.”
Shirley Schmidt, who lives on Marsh Hawk Drive, urged commissioners to deny the request.
“This proposal should be rejected because it is not consistent with the neighborhood in type, density, surrounding land and stakeholder impact. The Pasco residents must be able to rely on FLU (future land use) maps.”
Joe Seidle, who lives on Lake Thomas Road, noted, “the applicant’s plan is incompatible with the neighbors. But less apparent, the applicant’s plan is incompatible with the rest of our community.
“Please don’t ignore this community’s heritage because some of out-of-towners from Pinellas want to turn a big profit.
“It has taken decades to build this community, but please realize you could be destroying it in just a matter of minutes.
“This place is unique and it deserves some special attention,” he told commissioners.
“Land O’ Lakes is a gem.
“Generations of nature-loving families have raised their kids here. Please resist this constant pressure to build, build, build. It’s times to protect, protect, protect,” Seidle said.
Other speakers raised concerns about traffic hazards and a potential for flooding.
“There’s got to be a left-hand turn out of this development,” said John Lann, of Marsh Hawk Drive. Forcing motorists who want to head north from the project to make a U-turn at Ehren Cutoff is dangerous, he said. “We’re just waiting for the accidents to happen.”
Barbara Wilhite, an attorney representing the applicant, told commissioners that 98 people attended the two neighborhood meetings regarding the development.
As a result of concerns raised by area residents, her client purchased additional acreage to provide direct access onto U.S. 41.
The townhomes will be clustered internally to limit impact from the buildings on adjacent single-family residences. The units will be limited to four-unit townhomes and will be two stories, and there will be substantial buffering.
The conditions for the proposed rezoning also address concerns about boat access to Lake Thomas, she said, noting her client intends to build a passive boardwalk, which will prevent access to Lake Thomas.
Wilhite said the proposed project is consistent with the county’s vision for infill development in areas where there are water, sewer, schools and roadways to serve it.
Commissioner Kathryn Starkey noted that the request is in keeping with the county’s desire to direct growth up the U.S. 41 corridor.
“I see it as a transitional piece, and I am in support. I think the buffering is excellent,” she said.
Commissioner Jack Mariano said he believes the concessions being offered will minimize the impact of the proposed development.
“They’re protecting the lake dramatically,” Mariano said.
Published February 26, 2020