The Zephyrhills area has experienced burgeoning activity in the way of residential growth and commercial development.
Pasco County Commission chairman Ron Oakley has witnessed it firsthand, since being elected in 2016.
“Zephyrhills has been a very good, working city,” said Oakley, who represents District 1, which covers areas in East and Central Pasco.
“Economically, they’ve done very well over the years, and I mean, it just didn’t start here lately, it’s been that way.
“They have a good council here, and they have good planners and others,” the county board leader said.
But Oakley is especially enthused about the forthcoming roadway connectivity in and out of the city limits — which he detailed as one of the featured speakers at the fifth annual Zephyrhills Economic Summit held last month, at Zephyrhills City Hall.
The Oct. 13 event was organized by the City of Zephyrhills, Greater Zephyrhills Chamber of Commerce, Zephyrhills Economic Development Coalition, Main Street Zephyrhills, Pasco Economic Development Council (Pasco EDC), and AdventHealth Zephyrhills/Dade City.
These were among the finished or active projects that Oakley highlighted:
- State Road 56 extension, from Meadow Pointe Boulevard in Wesley Chapel to U.S. 301 in Zephyrhills
- Wire Road pavement rehabilitation
- County Road 54, east to 23rd Street, which includes traffic signals, turn lanes, and multi-use path
- U.S. 301/Pretty Pond Road, which includes traffic signals and median improvements
“Those are great things happening, because that’s going to help everybody move around better,” Oakley said.
Some countywide roadway upgrades also will benefit the municipality, too, Oakley noted.
That includes the $33.6 million diverging diamond interchange at Interstate 75 and State Road 56, which is expected to be completed in summer 2022.
Oakley put it like this: “What good is a diverging diamond to Zephyrhills? Well, economically, it helps people get in and out of the area, and it helps them get here, and then also to get out of here.”
There’s also the $64 million interstate interchange on I-75 at Overpass Road, south of State Road 52, scheduled for completion in late 2022 or early 2023.
“That’s going to help divide that traffic up from (State Road) 56, to Overpass to (State Road) 54 and then (State Road) 52,” Oakley said.
By spreading the traffic out, “your movement will be much better,” he explained.
Oakley was quick to point out that these big-ticket roadway infrastructure projects would not be possible without the mobility fees paid by surrounding growth and development.
“None of this happens without the fact that we’re doing a lot of residential development that brings in impact fees (mobility fees) and school impact fees that builds schools, and also pays for the roads that you see,” he said.
Large developments are in progress
Oakley also told the crowd about some of the large-scale developments that he said, “are cropping up everywhere around the city.”
He directed attention to Two Rivers, a master-planned unit development (MPUD) zoning off State Road 56, between Morris Bridge Road and U.S. 301.
The project is substantial.
The county has approved up to 6,400 residences, more than 2.6 million square feet of office and industrial, and 630,000 square feet of commercial uses.
The 3,405-acre property’s southern boundary is on the north side of County Line Road, and its northern boundary is on the north side of State Road 56.
The Two Rivers development also includes a site for an elementary school, middle school and high school, an 80-acre district park and a public safety site.
“All these developments are going to bring more people into the economy of Zephyrhills; very important for that economy,” Oakley said. “Those people coming in will be really helping a lot of businesses here in Zephyrhills.”
The speaker acknowledged the possible strain on services and utilities such as water and sewer, but assured local citizens that the county is well-prepared.
“There’s nothing wrong with good, planned growth,” Oakley said.
The commissioner also shared his vision and standards for new residential developments popping up in East Pasco.
These large developments, the commissioner said, should entail “good architectural views, good landscaping, and a place you’d be proud to live in.”
In the same breath, he pushed back on small-lot housing subdivisions.
“I honestly believe that we shouldn’t have 40-foot lots,” he said. “We have some, and they work, I guess, somewhere, but they’re really too small.”
He continued, “We want to build a whole residential development that’s more of a community, and not houses right beside each other, with no landscaping. We want something to be proud of in Pasco.”
Elsewhere, Oakley mentioned the county is working on plans to help small businesses, in the way of zero-interest loans, grants and other assistance programs.
“They’re pretty much the backbone of our community, when you think about all the small businesses,” said Oakley. “We have the big businesses, and they’re a different source themselves, but small business is very important.”
Burgess bullish on Zephyrhills armory
State Rep. Danny Burgess, R- Zephyrhills also participated in the economic summit, speaking virtually from his Tallahassee office.
His remarks focused on the forthcoming Florida National Guard Armory coming to Zephyrhills that is set to be located near the city’s municipal airport.
State lawmakers earmarked $25 million for the construction of the project during the past legislative session.
Burgess described the project as “a first-of-its kind, state-of-the-art armory.”
He said it will employ many full-time Army officers during the week, plus hundreds of soldiers and service people visiting on weekends.
The legislator views the armory as “a big economic driver” for the city, where soldiers and service members “work and eat and stay and play in our community.”
“It’s not just a military installation, it’s not just a home for the National Guard,” Burgess said. “It’s going to be really good, and it’s moving fast, so we should hopefully have some great direction here soon.”
What makes the project even more special, Burgess said, is that Zephyrhills is a community that has deep military roots and a record of support for the armed forces.
The city was founded by Civil War veteran Capt. Howard B. Jeffries, as a retirement area for union soldiers.
The city’s airport property was used by the U.S. Army in the 1940s as a training airfield for combat pilots.
“We should all be very, very proud of this,” Burgess added of the armory.
Burgess went on to praise the city’s windfall in the latest state budget, which included several appropriations, including $6.5 million for water and wastewater improvements on Handcart Road; $4.6 million for improvements to the Sarah Vande Berg Tennis & Wellness Center; and $3 million for improvements to the Zephyrhills Municipal Airport.
Said Burgess, “It’s a testament to our community, to the things that are happening in our community, to the businesses in our community and our community leaders.”
As a sign of the municipality’s wave of progress, back in June Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis appeared at Zephyrhills City Hall for a state budget-signing ceremony— penning into law a record-setting $101.5 billion budget for fiscal year 2021-2022.
The invite-only press conference drew several dozens of area residents, business owners and government officials, in a standing-room only affair.
Burgess also credited Florida Senate President Wilton Simpson (R-Trilby) for his continuous support of Zephyrhills at the state level.
“He has always looked out for that community, and he sees the value in our location geographically and from an infrastructure standpoint, and he just wants to see us succeed,” Burgess said.
Other featured presentations during the summit came from Zephyrhills Planning Director Todd Vande Berg; David Waronker, CBD Real Estate Investment president; Randy Stovall, Zephyrhills Economic Development Coalition chairman; and Tom Ryan, Pasco Economic Development Coalition director of business development.
Zephyrhills is now Pasco’s biggest city
The City of Zephyrhills has surpassed New Port Richey as Pasco County’s biggest city, based on data collected in the 2020 U.S. Census.
The Pasco County Commission discussed the shift during its board meeting on Oct. 26, noting that it will have to make some new appointments to boards that include a representative from the county’s largest municipality.
Census data reports that Zephyrhills had a population of 17,194 on April 1, 2020. Its population was 13,288 as of April 1, 2010.
New Port Richey’s population was 16,728 on April 1, 2020, compared to 14,911 on April 1, 2010.
Census figures for local jurisdictions include:
Jurisdiction April 1, 2020 April 1, 2010
Pasco County 561,891 464,697
Zephyrhills 17,194 13,288
Dade City 7,550 6,437
New Port Richey 16,728 14,911
Hillsborough County 1,459,762 1,229,226
Tampa 384,959 335,709
Pasco County Commissioners discussed Zephyrhills’ shift to become the county’s largest city, noting that it will mean that some appointments will need to change next year because certain boards require representation from the county’s largest city.
Published November 03, 2021