The Pasco County Commission has approved a rezoning for a 27-home subdivision, at the northwest intersection of Bell Lake and Alpine roads.
The site for the proposed subdivision is about 1 mile east of U.S. 41, in Land O’ Lakes.
The approval will allow houses with a minimum of 40-foot-wide lots to be built on the 9.5-acre site.
The board’s vote, at its Feb. 4 meeting, was the second time it approved the request.
A previous vote, taken on Jan. 7, was voided after it was discovered an error had been made on the public notice of that meeting.
Todd Pressman, representing the applicant, said plans call for a rental home community.
The price points of the homes being constructed there would be in mid-200s to mid-300s, he said, but they are being built for a segment of the market that prefers renting to home ownership.
Pressman showed the board a power point with representations of the type of houses that American Homes 4 Rent plans to build.
Several neighbors spoke against the requested rezoning. They said the lot size is incompatible with surrounding developments.
They also cited concerns about the condition of area roads that would serve the subdivision. Other worries include potential impacts on the area’s drainage, and potential safety hazards for children because the area lacks sidewalks.
One of their biggest concerns, though, was the fact that the company building the homes specializes in rental homes.
They expressed concerns that those living in rental homes are less committed to upkeep because they aren’t as invested as individual homeowners. They also noted that renters tend to be more transient than homeowners.
County Attorney Jeffrey Steinsnyder said that the county doesn’t consider the question of whether a property will be rented, or owned, when deciding land use issues.
The Pasco County Planning Commission recommended denial of the request, citing incompatibility between the requested lot size and the area’s existing development pattern.
But, county planners recommended approval, noting the county’s long-range plan allows up to six dwellings per acre, and saying this development represents an appropriate transition.
Pressman pointed out that the request is for 2.85 dwellings per acre, less than half of what’s allowed in the county’s land use plan. He also cited the property’s planned 200-foot buffer.
But, neighbors said the site plan indicates that the homes will be clustered together, which effectively reduces the lot size.
They said the planned lot sizes simply are not a good fit for the area.
Conditions for approval include a requirement to improve Alpine Road, to the entrance of the subdivision. The development also must install a left-turn lane on Bell Lake Road, and provide sidewalks on the frontage of the subdivision.
Eric Swanson, land manager for American Homes 4 Rent, a national homebuilder, said the average household income for its renters is $100,000.
He also described the typical renter as an older millennial with a family, and said renters typically stay at a property for two years to three years.
Pasco County Commissioner Kathryn Starkey said this type of housing — rental homes — is a trend across the country, according to Urban Land Institute reports.
Neighbors expressed a variety of concerns.
Troy Gotschall, lives on Ladera Lane, just north of the planned subdivision.
“My biggest concern with this whole project is that the size of the lots do not meet what is in the surrounding area. That’s just not acceptable to us. It doesn’t make sense.
“It really gives us a heartache,” he said.
David Hodierne, who also lives on Ladera Lane, told commissioners: “Obviously, rentals concern us.”
He added: “One of the main questions I ask is: What need is truly being filled here? We have a high-density subdivision going into our rural community.
He cited the county’s declining percentage of owner-occupied homes and pointed to a recent action by commissioners to create a rental registry ordinance. When adopting that ordinance, commissioners cited concerns about the potential problems that result when rental properties are neglected, or attract criminal activity.
Margaret Gotschall, who lives on Fallglo Lane, said “the condition of the roads (Bell Lake and Alpine) is certainly a concern, especially with construction and increased traffic,” she said. “Bell Lake Road has deep, call them, ditches, on the side of the road.
“Alpine Road is very narrow. It’s deteriorating. The shoulders on both sides are caving in. It would need tremendous work to accommodate the additional traffic, and of course, the construction equipment that’s going to be going over these roads while this development is being constructed,” she said.
Karen Joeb, of Alpine Road, said “my grandson gets off the school bus. He steps in a ditch, to get across the road, to get across Alpine to come home.”
Curt Lessl, who lives on Alpine Road, said he’s already lost 160 maple trees in his backyard due to flooding.
“Putting this many homes, 10 feet apart from each other, on that small of property will overload that wetlands, which feeds into the wetlands and the drainage system that feeds into Banjo Lake right behind my property. It’s going to make an impact.
He also asked: “What guarantee do we have that this company, who is going to come in put in these rental properties, is going to maintain those rental properties.
“What’s going to happen when they decide to sell it to some other company that doesn’t have the same interest at heart? And then they sell it, and we’re left holding the bag.”
He urged commissioners: “Leave this area the quiet, small, low-density residential area that it has been for the last 50 years.”
Despite neighbors’ objections, commissioners sided with their planning staff’s recommendation and approved the rezoning, 5-0.
Published February 12, 2020