Sunday, December 10, 2017
Business

Planned economic engine in central Pasco stalls with neighbors

WESLEY CHAPEL — Kartik Goyani of Metro Development has the task of selling the planned connected city corridor to future employers.

He has pitched the still mostly rural area of Wesley Chapel to more than 100 companies, including a hospital, touting the benefits of locating in the 7,800 acres that will be the nation's first smart gigabit community built from the ground up.

The potential for jobs to materialize before rooftops is very real, said Pat Gassaway of Heidt Design and Associates, the consultant helping to plan the massive connected city corridor.

"This is the biggest economic engine in Pasco County for the next 50 years,'' Gassaway predicted.

But what's also very real is that the sales pitch to current residents has been far from a success.

"Nobody here asked for this,'' said Joseph Bridwell of Baylor Lane.

It was a recurring theme at the fifth and final community meeting last week among Metro, Heidt, Pasco County and area residents. More than 90 people attended the session at Wesley Chapel Elementary School.

Residents asked questions about the forced taking of their land, crime, business development, congestion and flooding they fear will accompany the planning area, which could include 37,000 homes built over the next 50 years on land bordered by Interstate 75, Curley and Overpass roads, and State Road 52.

"What makes you think there won't be 37,000 homes with people driving to Tampa?'' asked Jennifer McCarthy of Kenton Road. "Get the jobs here first. We don't need more retail.''

Bridwell's wife, Melanie, questioned the wisdom of including existing rural homesteads in neighborhoods with no deed restrictions within a planning area poised for high-end development.

"I don't get it,'' she said. "What are you going to do? Clean up the whole area?''

The pushback came, in part, because the planners drew up big ideas for land they don't control. Though much of the land is targeted for large-scale development, including more than 6,000 homes in Metro's Epperson and Mirada projects, the planning area encompasses approximately 250 property owners. Some residents particularly disliked Heidt's idea of putting public parks on their privately owned land.

The connected city corridor — a 10-year state pilot program to expedite government approval for developments promoting job creation, alternative transportation, sprawl limits or environmental protections — still must be approved by Pasco County commissioners.

In advance of that decision, residents started their own Facebook page — PCCWatch — and Metro Development, a day after the meeting, released its own statement promising "to do more to communicate with this group, and we are in the process of creating more channels for residents to ask questions. We want all the residents living near the Connected City area to know that we are listening, that their concerns will be taken into consideration, and that we will work to get them information and answers quickly."

There was one emerging question that did not get an answer at the community meeting.

"I just want to know,'' said John Morris, who moved to McKendree Road 20 years ago to escape Hillsborough County's congestion, "when you're going to start sending out (land purchase) offers.''

He said he and his wife, Alyce, plan to move again.

Comments
Tampa: Hundreds protest Trump’s decision on Jerusalem

Tampa: Hundreds protest Trump’s decision on Jerusalem

TAMPA — Hundreds rallied near the University of South Florida on Friday night to protest President Donald Trump’s recent declaration that the United States will recognize the divided city of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.The protest was organize...
Published: 12/08/17
Updated: 12/09/17

Duke outage leaves 7,700 without power near Pinellas Park

PINELLAS PARK — Up to 7,700 customers across Pinellas Park, Lealman and Kenneth City lost power in a Thursday night outage, according to Duke Energy.The outage impacted a cloverleaf-shaped area of customers, with pedals extending in the cardinal dire...
Published: 12/08/17
Express lanes set to open on Veterans. They’re free -- for now.

Express lanes set to open on Veterans. They’re free -- for now.

TAMPA — Drivers on the Veterans Expressway will gain an extra lane from Gunn Highway to Hillsborough Avenue starting Saturday.But there’s a catch: Once drivers enter the lane, they won’t be able to leave it — not until a designated exit about six mil...
Published: 12/08/17
St. Petersburg chamber of commerce charts ‘Grow Smarter’ economic development strategy

St. Petersburg chamber of commerce charts ‘Grow Smarter’ economic development strategy

Times Staff WriterST. PETERSBURG — What started more than five years ago as an exploratory conversation among a handful of business leaders blossomed Friday into a full-blown community discussion of how to nurture business while working to make sure ...
Published: 12/08/17
Visit St. Pete/Clearwater makes Orlando tourists a top target

Visit St. Pete/Clearwater makes Orlando tourists a top target

In a decision driven by some major data crunching, Visit St. Pete/Clearwater next year will focus its tourism advertising on three target markets: Orlando, New York City and its Tampa Bay home."Research is going to dictate our behaviors and direction...
Published: 12/08/17
Having JW Marriott run Water Street Tampa’s new 519-room hotel expected to help Tampa pursue more upscale conventions

Having JW Marriott run Water Street Tampa’s new 519-room hotel expected to help Tampa pursue more upscale conventions

TAMPA — JW Marriott, a luxury hotel brand new to Tampa, will run the new 519-room hotel that the Water Street Tampa project is building next to the Marriott Waterside Hotel & Marina, developers announced Friday.Construction on the 26-story hotel is ...
Published: 12/08/17

Gravel spill shuts down parts of northbound Howard Frankland Bridge

TAMPA — Authorities are cleaning up a load of gravel spilled onto the northbound Howard Frankland Bridge on Friday afternoon, shutting down at least two lanes of traffic.The incident was reported at 2 p.m. on the stretch of the bridge drivers approac...
Published: 12/08/17
A longer wait: Some now try nearly 3 years to get disability insurance

A longer wait: Some now try nearly 3 years to get disability insurance

By the time Teralyn Fleming could finally plead her case to get federal disability insurance, she had been waiting two years and three months. The wait was not a peaceful one — a blood clotting disorder pushed her out of the workforce in 2015 ...
Published: 12/08/17
Why has bitcoin’s price shot up so fast?

Why has bitcoin’s price shot up so fast?

SAN FRANCISCO — Bitcoin has been in a bull market like few the world has ever seen.At the beginning of the year, the price of a bitcoin was below $1,000. It hit $5,000 in October, then doubled by late November. And on Thursday, less than two weeks la...
Published: 12/08/17
U.S. employers added 228,000 jobs in November, unemployment rate stays at 4.1 percent

U.S. employers added 228,000 jobs in November, unemployment rate stays at 4.1 percent

WASHINGTON — U.S. employers added a robust 228,000 jobs in November, a sign of the job market’s enduring strength in its ninth year of economic recovery. The unemployment rate remained at a 17-year low of 4.1 percent, the Labor Department reported F...
Published: 12/08/17