Activity is on the rise in the City of Zephyrhills — from multiple new housing developments, to myriad airport and roadway improvements, to the prospect of wholesale changes to its local 911 communication operations.
Zephyrhills City Manager Billy Poe offered a look at what’s happening in the city, during a speaking engagement at last month’s East Pasco Networking Group breakfast meeting at IHOP in Dade City.
The city’s residential development is booming, Poe said.
“You see it when you’re driving down the road, driving down (State Road) 56, everywhere you go, anywhere you go, you see the development happening,” he said, during the March 9 breakfast meeting.
There are nine housing developments totaling about 3,000 units on the books, Poe said. The housing styles include townhomes, single-family homes and apartments.
The additional housing is expected to bring an estimated 7,000 new residents to the municipality, when all is said and done, Poe said.
These developments are predominately situated beyond the Zephyr Commons Shopping Center and Walmart off Gall Boulevard, as well as around the Sarah Vande Berg Tennis & Wellness Center along Simons Road. The projects are in varying stages, from preliminary plans to homes under construction, Poe said.
“Zephyrhills will definitely be changing as we move through this, God willing the economy stays the way it’s going for us,” Poe said.
Airport gets a lift
Several enhancements are coming to the Zephyrhills Municipal Airport, which spans some 900 acres of land donated to the city after World War II.
Most notable is moving forward with the extension of Runway 1-19. It’s increasing to 6,200 feet, up from 4,700 feet.
The longer runway will accommodate larger corporate jets and will bolster industry in the surrounding airport vicinity. It also will provide support, in the long-term, for an industrial corridor, in the area of Chancey Road.
The Runway 1-19 project also calls for a Taxiway B extension, paved runway shoulders and construction of an access road.
The $6.5 million runway extension project, funded via state appropriations and Penny for Pasco, is expected to be completed in November. The city recently awarded a construction bid to Plant City-based C.W. Roberts Contracting for the work.
Poe detailed how instrumental State Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby was in securing funding, given that improved transportation via air travel is one of Florida’s long-range goals for its communities.
Poe put it this way: “Sen. Simpson helped push this project forward, because he saw the importance of having a longer runway and being able to bring in those corporate jets to Zephyrhills.”
Poe also emphasized that the move isn’t a preamble for the airport to eventually expand into a cargo hub — something recently implemented at Lakeland’s Linder International Airport in partnership with Amazon.
“There’s been some rumblings that, ‘Hey we’re going to go try to look like Lakeland and try to get cargo jets and all that.’ That is not true. Our goal is to be the best general aviation airport around,” Poe said.
For that scenario to even be considered, Poe said, the airport would need to install a tower and an Airport Rescue and Firefighting Station (ARFF) to clear zones and angles, among other considerations. “A lot of things that would have to be done,” he said. “Now, if somebody wants to come in and pay for that, we can have a conversation, (but) the city is not doing that.”
Other boosts are planned for the airport, too.
This includes upgrading its fuel farm, which features a pair of 20,000-gallon tanks some 25 years old. Poe said the state is funding 80% of the fuel farm upgrade, while the city is on the hook for 20%. The bid for this project is expected to be awarded in May.
There’s also plans to rehabilitate Taxiway A — which runs along Runway 5-23 — due to asphalt pavement reaching the end of its useful life. The project is currently in the design phase with projected construction coming in November. Poe said the FAA will fund 90% of the $3.3 million project, with the FDOT (8%) and the city (2%) contributing the remaining sum. “We would not be able to do it without partnerships with DOT, FAA, the state, all of those different grant dollars,” he said.
Installing some more corporate hangars at the airport is another objective, among others Poe said.
Roadwork improvements en route
Aside from the airport, several roadwork projects also are in the pipeline for the burgeoning East Pasco municipality.
The city manager said activity is well underway on the U.S. 301/Pretty Pond Road intersection project, which calls for the relocation of an existing signalized intersection from the shopping plaza entrance to Pretty Pond Road, a signalized intersection at Medical Arts Court, and all other required roadway improvements. The addition of signalized intersections at these locations serves to improve the mobility of the northeast section of the city, and become an economic driver for the northeast and northwest corners of Pretty Pond to be developed into a national grocery store, national chain hotel, pet supply store and chain restaurants.
The $2.3 million project is fully funded through a state appropriation.
Meantime, the city has entered the design phase to pave the remaining northern portion of Simons Road, from the Links of Silver Oaks subdivision to Fort King Road, making a continuous north-south connector linking Eiland Boulevard to Fort King Road. Upon completion, residents living on the north end of town will have another option onto Eiland Boulevard, and otherwise helping eliminate congested traffic.
The city manager expects the Simons Road construction project to bid out around October, adding “hopefully by this time next year that road will be open.”
He explained the reason the city didn’t pave the entire road all at once was due to obstructing Duke Energy transmission poles. Now, the utilities company is in the process of relocating those poles at no cost to the city, Poe said, noting it would’ve cost the city around $2 million to move them at the time a couple years ago. “The city works very hard to get those grant dollars and tries to stretch the taxpayer dollars as far as we possibly can,” he said.
He added the city also is seeking grant funding, plus partnerships with the county and Lennar development to add a traffic signal at the Simons Road/Eiland Boulevard intersection, to alleviate traffic coming to and from the Sarah Vande Berg Tennis & Wellness Center, at 6585 Simons Road.
Elsewhere, the city plans to extend Dean Dairy Road from Pretty Pond Road north to Kossick Road. This action, Poe said would “help alleviate some of the traffic going up onto U.S. 301 and being able to access (Zephyr Commons) Publix and things from that back road.”
Poe otherwise detailed how the city spends roughly $400,000 per year repaving and rehabbing its local roadway network, using techniques like full-depth reclamation and micro seal to extend their useful life. The city’s streets department otherwise maintains roughly 66 miles of roadways throughout Zephyrhills, the city manager said.
Published April 07, 2021