Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pasco channel project gives rise to dispute

HUDSON — In a strongly worded e-mail to County Administrator John Gallagher, a retired top official of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers who is steering a 2,300-acre development proposal in Hudson criticized one of Pasco's most senior environmental officials for making "permitting almost impossible" on a channel crucial to the development.

Robert Carpenter, former commander of the corps' office in Jacksonville, blasted county biologist Robert Tietz for delays after Tietz suggested an examination of Pasco's coastal resources, including sea grass.

Carpenter told Gallagher in a March 21 e-mail that Tietz "is not on our side."

Pasco County and the developers of the Sunwest Harbourtowne project, which calls for more than 2,000 homes, an 18-hole golf course and 540,000 square feet of stores and offices, are jointly working on a channel to access the Gulf of Mexico from Hudson. The county is taking the lead in getting the channel approved.

Sunwest officials said last year they had found a route for the channel that would avoid any impact to environmentally sensitive sea grass off Hudson.

"My blood is boiling!" Carpenter wrote to Gallagher. "I need some help. You have to read the e-mail Mr. Tietz sent after having 85 days to review the county park/channel … He is not on our side. His action is required for FDEP (Florida Department of Environmental Protection) permit. … Please help. Internal correspondence and actions like this make permitting almost impossible. I am amazed at his boldness."

The state DEP is reviewing the proposal and awaiting a response from Pasco and Sunwest by next Wednesday on a variety of questions the department had asked about the channel, including its impact on sea grass.

Carpenter was apparently enraged by a March 13 e-mail Tietz had sent county officials and consultants.

Tietz outlined the work he's been doing to analyze Pasco's sea grass and other coastal resources, and proposed a workshop with county consultants to discuss his findings.

"My comments are intended to assist in developing a plan at the local level that will make the park and canal eminently permittable by those folks and agencies that are regulators," Tietz wrote. He said his study isn't just for the Sunwest development but for Pasco's long-range planning needs.

Tietz made clear that he's not opposed to the project, and in fact believes it would complement Pasco well.

"My perspective on those land-based resources to be protected, preserved and enhanced by the park development is that it is an ideal situation and great opportunity for the residents of Pasco County, and an attractive and valuable addition to the Nature Coast concept," he wrote in his March 13 e-mail.

Pamala Vazquez, DEP's spokeswoman, said the department's April 9 deadline can be extended. She said it's not unusual for the department to grant extensions, and that in such cases, the DEP only denies applications if the applicants consistently refuse to provide adequate responses. There are no rules on when applicants should request extensions, Vazquez said.

Tietz, who has worked on environmental issues in Pasco since 1982 and is a respected figure among local environmentalists, never got a copy of Carpenter's criticism but another county official read it to him.

Tietz told the Pasco Times on Friday that he felt Carpenter was "just being a bully."

"Pasco currently has no map showing where our coastal resources are," he said. "We've got the tools now."

Gallagher dispatched Michele Baker, his chief assistant, to make peace.

"Bob (Tietz) didn't do anything wrong," Baker said Tuesday. "But he was probably doing more than the minimum required. He probably didn't do a good job communicating with PBS&J" — referring to the project consultants who forwarded Tietz's e-mail to Carpenter — "and he's promised to maintain better lines of communication with them."

PBS&J, an engineering consultant, works for both the county and Sunwest on this project.

Baker said she thought Tietz was acting "with the very best of intentions." She said the county is trying to learn from its mistakes in an earlier unrelated project to dredge a different Hudson channel, which ran into years of problems because of terrain and funding.

A Sunwest spokeswoman, Becky Bray, said Carpenter was out of town Tuesday. She said Pasco has signed off on the channel and attached county park.

"It is very frustrating when the county has its approvals and is ready to move to the next step and someone wants to start over," Bray wrote in an e-mail to the Times.

As the process moves forward, lots of agencies will review the park and the channel's environmental standards, Bray said.

Tietz has now scheduled a meeting with PBS&J on Friday, Baker said.

Has Tietz been ordered to stop his review of coastal resources?

"No," Baker said. "But he's been asked to hurry up and get some closure."

Chuin-Wei Yap can be reached at cyap@sptimes.com or (813)909-4613.

Pasco channel project gives rise to dispute 04/01/08 [Last modified: Saturday, April 5, 2008 2:16pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Bill Clinton coming to Miami Beach on Saturday for mayors' convention

    Blogs

    From our friends at the Miami Herald:

    Former President Bill Clinton gives the opening address to kick off a meeting of International Aid Groups at the InterAction Forum 2017 at the Washington Convention Center on June 20.
  2. Obama's secret struggle to punish Russia for Putin's election assault

    National

    WASHINGTON — Early last August, an envelope with extraordinary handling restrictions arrived at the White House. Sent by courier from the CIA, it carried "eyes only" instructions that its contents be shown to just four people: President Barack Obama and three senior aides.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Barack Obama shake hands at the COP21 UN Conference on Climate Change in Paris, France, Monday, Nov. 30, 2015. [Mikhail Klimentyev | Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP]
  3. GOP's challenge: Finding votes for Senate health care bill (w/video)

    National

    WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has finally unwrapped his plan for dismantling President Barack Obama's health care law. Now comes his next challenge — persuading enough Republicans to back the measure and avert a defeat that could be shattering for President Donald Trump and the GOP.

    Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., speaks to reporters at the Capitol after Republicans released their long-awaited bill to scuttle much of President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, June 22, 2017. He is one of four GOP senators to say they are opposed it but are open to negotiations, which could put the measure in immediate jeopardy. [Associated Press]
  4. Trigaux: Halfway through 2017, a closer look at six drivers of the Tampa Bay economy

    Business

    We're nearly halfway through 2017 already, a perfect time to step back from the daily grind of business and ask: How's Tampa Bay's economy doing?

    Is there one theme or idea that captures the Tampa Bay brand? Not really but here's one possibility. The fun-loving annual Gasparilla "Invasion" of Tampa is captured in this photo of 
The Jose Gasparilla loaded with pirates of Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla on its way this past January to the Tampa Convention Center. In the future a vibrant downtown Tampa or St. Petersburg may be the better theme. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times]
  5. Harmeling first woman to receive lifetime honor at Sneaker Soiree in Tampa

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — For the last quarter-century, she has combined passion and meticulousness to keep the Gasparilla Distance Classic humming and evolving. Indefatigable and detailed, Susan Harmeling braces for every race-weekend contingency.

    Susan Harmeling gives a speech after accepting an award  during the annual Sneaker Soiree, at TPepin's Hospitality Centre, Thursday, June 22, 2017.