The framework for the Connected City corridor is falling into place.
Members of Pasco County’s development review committee recommended approval of new documents establishing fees that will be paid by developers, a utilities service plan and a master roadway plan.
State legislators approved the Connected City in 2015, and selected Pasco as the site for a 10-year pilot program to create communities and new jobs based on cutting edge technology, including gigabit Internet speeds.
The initiative also envisions alternative transportation, including lanes for golf carts, and trails and paths for pedestrians and bicyclists.
Pasco County commissioners will make the final decisions on implementing rules for the state-approved special development district, which covers about 7,800 acres in rural northeast Pasco.
Boundaries generally are Interstate 75, State Road 52, Overpass Road and Curley Road.
That final vote and public hearing, is tentatively scheduled for March 7.
But, the Pasco County Commission is scheduled to have a Dec. 6 workshop to discuss Connected City.
Though the state’s pilot program is for 10 years, build out in the district would take another 40 years, with completion expected around 2065.
Preliminary data from the county suggests that in the first phase, from 2016 to 2040, Connected City could generate on average about $20 million a year in property tax revenues. From 2040 to 2065, the annual haul in property tax revenues could be as much as $30 million a year.
The net affect on the county’s budget – balancing expenses and revenues – is not known yet, but county staff members are crunching data.
Within the district’s boundaries, it is up to property owners and developers if they want to participate in Connected City.
Rules provide an opt-in choice that requires an application process, and a mandated set of requirements and responsibilities.
Overall developers opting in would pay additional mobility fees and surcharges, but also receive incentive credits for such items as building alternative traffic lanes for golf carts and bicyclists.
Estimates peg infrastructure costs, including roads and new schools, at about $329 million over the 50-year time frame.
“We weren’t going to force anybody to participate in Connected City,” said Earnest Monaco, the county’s assistant planning and development director. “If they did nothing, they could continue business as usual.”
Oversight of projects would be transferred from the county’s development review committee and planning commission to a seven-member management committee. County commissioners would still make final approvals.
The goal is to speed up the process for land use changes, rezoning and permitting.
Members would include the District 1 county commissioner, three people appointed by Metro Development Group, one property owner not part of Connected City, one school district appointee, and a county staff member named by the county administrator.
Metro Development is partnering with Pasco on the initial projects in Connected City. The company plans to build a mixed-use community at Epperson Ranch, which will have a 7-acre manmade “Crystal Lagoon” as a featured centerpiece.
During public comment, concerns were raised about whether incentives given to Connected City property owners would be unfair to property owners who choose not to participate.
“I’m not sure how this is supposed to be,” said Randy Maggard, who owns property in the district. “Is this really a level playing field. That’s my concern. Is it fair and equitable for everybody at the end of the day?”
Attorney Joel Tew, who represents Metro Development Group, said data shows “there’s more than a level playing field.”
Residents along Kenton Road — which under the road plan would be expanded from two lanes to four lanes — were split in their support for Connected City.
Resident Jennifer McCarthy said she worried about losing the rural character of a two-lane road where residents enjoy open spaces.
Todd Stevenson, who also lives on Kenton, said he understands why developers are focused on this area of northeast Pasco.
“It’s largely undeveloped,” he said. “Of course, residents who live there are pretty upset. They like the peace and quiet of the unfiltered space. We have a lot of open space. We enjoy that. It (Connected City) potentially negates why we are there.”
But, Chris Joy said he welcomed Connected City even though he would lose land to the widening of Kenton Road.
His property fronts Kenton for nearly a mile, but he said, “It’s something in my opinion whose time has come. It’s not very pedestrian friendly. We’re very much in support of having this despite that our property is going to be split in two.”
Published November 16, 2016