Pasco leaders halt road repaving project

A group of very upset residents of Cranes Roost Drive in New Port Richey waited nearly all afternoon and into the evening on April 20 for a chance to slam the Pasco County Commission’s plans to repave the road in their community and stick them with the bill.

They ultimately succeeded, with the commission voting 4-1 to stop the project.

Pasco residents have been expressing anger of late at the commissioners for the Road Paving Assessment (PVAS) program, which the county uses to maintain some roads. Unlike other Florida counties, which maintain roads and don’t charge residents, Pasco has been doing it this way for a while — but resistance is growing.

At the April 20 meeting, it boiled over. Very long debates with a long stretch of public comment and emails over rezoning requests sent the afternoon session of the meeting into the early evening.

Resident Lewis Bayers told commissioners that the roads in the community are fine and that repaving work is unnecessary. “The road doesn’t yet need it,” he said. “The roads are fine.”

Valerie Schaefer, who said she’s lived there for 23 years, said commissioners got a folder with 70 signatures, 95% of the community’s residents, and they said the roads don’t need the work.

“We have no problems in our community,” she said. “When we do, we will let you know. Do not go forward with this.”

Public Works Director Branford Adumuah said that while the road might look fine now, it should be repaired before another storm causes real damage. Already, cracks are starting to show.

Commissioner Kathryn Starkey agreed while admitting that the PVAS program is not very popular.

“I think the people on Cranes Roost Drive think they have a great road because the chip seal hasn’t started deteriorating yet,” she said.

Commissioners Mike Moore and Jack Mariano were of the view that if 95% of the people don’t want the work done, the commission should listen to the people.

“Let’s look at the present situation. I’ve been on the road. The road’s in great shape. The people say it’s in great shape. Let’s not do it,” Mariano said. “They don’t want to see it done. This is not the time to do this road.”

Commissioner Christina Fitzpatrick said she had received one email in support of the road repair, but still voted with the 4-1 majority, with Starkey dissenting, to stop the project.

Moratorium gets first hearing

Commissioners also held the first of two required public hearings on a proposed moratorium on multifamily homes in an area comprising most of Commission District 2, represented by Moore.

In meetings last year and early this year, he has asked that something be done about the number of apartments being approved in his district.

The moratorium would be effective for 180 days from April 1, if approved, and could be extended by a majority vote.

The affected area runs along U.S. 41-Land O’ Lakes Boulevard from State Road 52 to State Road 54, east to Bruce B. Downs Boulevard in the southern part of District 2 and just west of the Suncoast Parkway in the northern part.

The proliferation of multifamily home construction is part of a trend in Florida as regional residential growth has accelerated in the past few months.

As reported in the Tampa Bay Times on April 15, the city of Tampa is considering a moratorium of its own on multifamily construction from June to March 2022.

Rezoning for more development brought out more angry residents who say that the county is being overrun with homes, roads and a larger population that is putting pressure on the schools.

An amendment to allow 325 residential units on 77.21 acres in south central Pasco County, on the south side of Bud Bexley Parkway and west of Ballantrae Boulevard, passed on a 5-0 vote.

An amendment for the Meadow Oaks master planned unit development has run into trouble because of Jim Campbell, a landowner who owns a parcel in the northern part of the property but has a patio and driveway on property belonging to Meadow Oaks. Campbell is selling the land to the Turner family, who plan on keeping the agricultural nature of the property but told commissioners they are worried about all the development going on near the property they are buying and in the county as well.

The amendment passed on a 5-0 vote.

In other action

• Commissioners received numerous emails complaining about the county wanting residents to remove boatlifts and covers that are in violation of county code. Some said they were assured by the companies putting them up that the covers were legal, and added that they had spent good money to have them put up, they were a way to protect their investments in their boats and they didn’t care about the rules in other counties.

• Starkey showed photos of developments lacking trees in the front yards, especially of townhomes, and said she wanted the county to be more active in requiring developers to put up trees in front and better landscaping. In several land actions on April 20, she asked representatives of developers to be more attentive to putting up trees in front of houses, not just in the backyards.

• Commissioners voted 5-0 to approve the Connerton Villages III and IV master planned unit development with a promise for landscaping and trees, as Starkey requested. Resident Maryann Bishop said the county commissioners needed to stop approving runaway development.

“Developers are making a fortune and leave us with bad roads and overcrowded schools,” she said. “People I talk to say the commissioners don’t listen to the people. Stop approving everything.”

• Commissioners rejected in a 3-2 vote a motion to change the zoning of a piece of land on the southwest corner of State Road 54 and Meadowbrook Drive from RES-3 to commercial. Residents contend that the plan is to put in another gas station, and say it would pollute the area’s groundwater and increase traffic and crime in the area. In addition, several said that there are enough gas stations in the area. Residents cheered the defeat of the motion.

• Commissioners heard an update on the Pasco Economic Development Council’s efforts to attract jobs and industry to the county. Mike Bishop said things are becoming more normal and there are 42 active projects. The Moffitt Cancer Center was a big win, he added, and there are more wins in the life sciences.

• Thomas Mantz, chief executive of Feeding Tampa Bay, gave a presentation on the efforts to feed the hungry in the county. The region has a goal of no one going hungry by 2025, he said, and food insecurity among adults and children continues to be a problem, even if the adults are working full time. The agency is pursuing efforts to reach people at bus stations, libraries and is even using a mobile grocery store. “When someone comes in for a meal, that’s not all they need,” Mantz said, so they are working with other partners for job training. And, he said, they could always use volunteers.

• Commissioners reappointed Jaime P. Girardi and Peter D. Hanzel to the Planning Commission, and appointed Don Anderson to the commission.

• Graduates of the Winter/Spring 2021 Citizens’ Academy received congratulations from the commissioners.

• The next Pasco County Commission meeting will be at 10 a.m. May 4 at the Historic Pasco County Courthouse, 37918 Meridian Ave., Dade City.