Residents in rural northeast Pasco County rallied against the proposed North Pasco RV Resort , but were unable to persuade the county’s planning board to recommend denial.
The Pasco County Commission recommended approval of a land use change and a rezoning, which would clear the way for the 550-space RV resort. The issue now goes before the Pasco County Commission, which has final jurisdiction on land use and zoning issues.
The proposed 132-acre site borders Interstate 75, east of Lake Iola Road and south of Blanton Road. It is within the county’s Northeast Pasco Rural Protection Overlay Area.
That overlay 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.
Attorney Barbara Wilhite represented the applicants, VCARE Consultants LLC, during the planning board’s Jan. 6 public hearings for the zoning and land use requests.
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 private professional planner testified that the proposed plan is consistent with policies within the rural overlay district.
Marino outlined specific conditions of approval that address provisions in the rural plan.
Wilhite told the planning board that numerous concerns were raised about the proposed plan during the initial neighborhood meeting in September 2019.
In response, she said, “we slowed down the project.
“We really listened to the concerns and I feel we addressed every one of them, except for folks that are just going to say, ‘We don’t want this. We don’t want this project,’” Wilhite said.
The original request called for 675 spaces; the new request calls for a maximum of 550.
The plan also includes a resort lodge and clubhouse facilities.
“We hired a landscape architect,” Wilhite said.
“We designed a specific, regulatory corridor buffer along Lake Iola Road, which is a rural scenic road. Our berm along Lake Iola Road exceeds the Northeast Pasco land development code requirements.
“We took an extra step, which I’ve never seen done before. We did an internal master landscape and tree plan,” she added.
A topographical survey will be done and conditions addressed how the site will be graded, consistent with Northeast Rural Pasco policies, she said. No mining will be allowed on the site, she added.
The development also will have its own wastewater treatment plant.
The conditions are part of the approval for the master-planned unit development, meaning any deviations would require the applicant to go back through the regulatory process, Wilhite said.
Marino told the planning board: “It is a commercial recreation use, a use that’s generally compatible in rural areas. The intensity was compatible, because of the adjacency to the interstate. That level of intensity might not be appropriate (in) other locations, but next to the interstate, it is.”
But opponents raised numerous issues.
Paul Boetcher cited concerns about potential ill effects from runoff on Lake Moody.
Gail Wright questioned where the water will come from for the new development.
“If they go to full capacity of 550, that’s 1,100 people flushing toilets. That’s 1,100 people taking showers,” she said.
Wright’s husband, Carl, objected to the proposed RV resort: “That’s commercial, in my book, and I don’t think that an RV park has any business being in the rural part of Pasco.”
Neighbors also raised questions about impacts on the area’s traffic and about the potential for RVs to be stacked on exterior roads, waiting to enter the resort.
Several residents submitted the same email, which notes the overlay district “was specifically set aside to preserve the rural nature of this unique area of Florida, to preserve the dark skies, to maintain unique viewsheds, minimize sound pollution, and protect fragile, sensitive lands.”
Lisa Moretti, chairwoman of the advisory committee empaneled to offer recommendations on commercial development in the rural area, asked the planning board to delay its decision until the committee could finish its work.
(The Pasco County Commission subsequently disbanded that board at its Jan. 11 meeting, after County Commissioner Ron Oakley complained it was not working the way it was intended.)
While residents voiced objections to the proposed RV resort, planning board members expressed support.
“Although this is in the northeast rural area, it’s an isolated area that uses a lot of the I-75 frontage. It’s in an area that has an RV park right down the street. I think this is miles above and beyond what the adjacent RV park is. That’s why I’m in favor of this,” said planning board member Jaime Girardi.
Planning board member Chris Poole said he appreciated the level of effort that Wilhite and her team put into the planning of this project.
Chairman Charles Grey said Marino’s testimony was persuasive, adding, “we have a responsibility to follow the rule of the law.”
Board member Peter Hanzel said ultimately, this project “may enhance the community, as a whole. It will bring folks to the county, will bring folks to a beautiful area of Pasco County.”
But Planning Commissioner Richard Tonello disagreed.
“This is the rural area. I think the people who live there wanted it to be that way. When we think of rural, we think of 1-acre sites, 5-acre sites, 10-acre sites,” he said.
Approval of this request, he said, “sets something in motion, as sort of a precedent.
“If commercial wants to be done, it can be done at appropriate places,” Tonello said. “This is just not the right place.”
Published January 19, 2022