Make us your home page

Pasco's Connerton development lays off executive staff

LAND O'LAKES — Connerton, once touted on billboards across the area as the region's exciting "New Town," has laid off its executive staff, including the man who played a key role in the vision and who has been a critical player in local and regional economic development efforts.

Dallas-based CoastOak Group, which bought the central Pasco development last year from Terrabrook in hopes of an economic revival, has laid off Stew Gibbons, who had been in charge of the firm's Southeast region.

"Difficult market conditions have prevented new builders from starting in the community up to this point, and these conditions are leading us to make some changes in our strategy to protect the quality and integrity of the Connerton community going forward," CoastOak spokesman Josh Nichols said. "We are reducing costs, which has resulted in the difficult decision to reduce our local staff. We appreciate all their efforts in creating Connerton and certainly regret that this step has become necessary. We remain committed to Connerton's future and to relaunching the community when market conditions improve."

Nichols said Gibbons has done "excellent work" and helped make Connerton "a first-class community."

Gibbons, 64, said he worked his last day for CoastOak on Thursday. Connerton's other two staffers, Pete Boudreau, vice president for finance, and Chip Jones, senior vice president for development, also were let go as full-time employees, but are still doing some contract work.

"Last spring was good, but it didn't bounce back," said Gibbons, who added that sales sagged as soon as the federal tax incentives expired. He said this spring, which is typically the peak sales season, was mixed but still slow.

"Things are tough right now," he said.

Housing analyst Marvin Rose called Gibbons "a good guy" and said his severance from CoastOak was a reflection of the sour market.

"I've talked to builders, and everyone is hoping for a resurgence in the spring of next year," Rose said. He said the county still has the highest impact fees in the region, and county commissioners' refusal to lower them earlier this year means the county's new housing market will recover more slowly. "It will be later than sooner," he said. "Pasco County's housing market is severely depressed."

Gibbons, a former chairman of the county's Economic Development Council who also chaired the regional board of the Urban Land Institute, said he is coping despite the loss of a job, thanks to his Christian faith and optimism that the economy will eventually turn around. The Georgia Tech grad and former Exxon employee remains proud of Connerton, which is also where he lives, as a development whose architecture, amenities and town center fostered a real sense of community among its residents.

"People like living there," he said.

Gibbons said he hopes to remain in the region and perhaps start his own development business with a group. He also hopes to remain active with the EDC and the Tampa Bay Partnership, where he has served on the transportation committee.

"Tampa Bay needs to decide what it's going to be," he said.

While the rejection of light rail was a "setback," Gibbons said the area desperately needs to develop more public transportation, especially if it hopes to attract smart, young professionals.

"There's been a huge drain," he said.

Seeking public office is not in his plans.

"I don't think that's my calling," he said. "I want to contribute regionally, and I'm not sure politicians are always able to do that. The private sector can bridge all the interests."

Lisa Buie can be reached at or (813) 909-4604.

.Fast facts

Plans for Connerton

Connerton is a 4,800-acre, mixed-use, master-planned community in central Pasco County and the only "New Town" under construction in the greater Tampa Bay area.

In total, approximately 8,500 residential units are planned with more than 3 million square feet of commercial space for office, retail and industrial uses.

CoastOak, based in Dallas, bought Connerton in 2010 from Terrabrook.

The community features completed amenities including on-site shopping, a long-term acute-care facility, a new elementary school and miles of walking trails, boardwalks, neighborhood parks and conservation areas. The community is adjacent to Conner Preserve, 3,850 acres of undeveloped land that was dedicated as permanent open space. A hospital, medical offices, a regional park, three schools and a town center are also planned.

CoastOak operates communities with more than 15,000 lots in 10 markets throughout the United States.

Pasco's Connerton development lays off executive staff 07/01/11 [Last modified: Friday, July 1, 2011 8:08pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Federal agencies demand records from SeaWorld theme park


    ORLANDO — Two federal agencies are reportedly demanding financial records from SeaWorld.

    Killer whales Ikaika and Corky participate in behaviors commonly done in the wild during SeaWorld's Killer Whale educational presentation in this photo from Jan. 9. SeaWorld has been subpoenaed by two federal agencies for comments that executives and the company made in August 2014 about the impact from the "Blackfish" documentary. 
[Nelvin C. Cepeda/San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS]
  2. Legalized medical marijuana signed into law by Rick Scott

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott on Friday signed into law a broader medical marijuana system for the state, following through on a promise he made earlier this month.

    Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation on Friday that legalizes medical marijuana in Florida.
  3. Line of moms welcome Once Upon A Child to Carrollwood


    CARROLLWOOD — Strollers of all shapes and sizes are lined up in front of the store, and inside, there are racks of children's clothing in every color of the rainbow.

    At Once Upon A Child, you often as many baby strollers outside as you find baby furniture and accessories. It recently opened this location in Carrollwood. Photo by Danielle Hauser
  4. Pastries N Chaat brings North India cuisine to North Tampa


    TAMPA — Pastries N Chaat, a new restaurant offering Indian street food, opened this week near the University of South Florida.

    The menu at Pastries N Chaat includes a large variety of Biriyani, an entree owners say is beloved by millions. Photo courtesy of Pastries N Chaat.
  5. 'Garbage juice' seen as threat to drinking water in Florida Panhandle county


    To Waste Management, the nation's largest handler of garbage, the liquid that winds up at the bottom of a landfill is called "leachate," and it can safely be disposed of in a well that's 4,200 feet deep.

    Three samples that were displayed by Jackson County NAACP President Ronstance Pittman at a public meeting on Waste Management's deep well injection proposal. The sample on the left is full of leachate from the Jackson County landfill, the stuff that would be injected into the well. The sample on the right shows leachate after it's been treated at a wastewater treatment plant. The one in the middle is tap water.