NEW PORT RICHEY — The wait is over for Bella Verde.
County commissioners on Wednesday approved an agreement with the planned community proposed for State Road 52 near Interstate 75, giving it the green light to start the project.
As part of the deal, developers for Bella Verde will decrease the number of homes from 6,700 to 4,373. In return, they get a buildout date of 2017 as opposed to 2010.
The development also agreed to pay $78-million toward road improvements, including a share of a required interchange cloverleaf loop ramp at I-75 that state planners are requiring.
"We're like the guy who finished fourth in the marathon," said Keith Bricklemyer, the attorney for New Cities Development, the company behind Bella Verde. "We're staggering over the line, but we made it."
The approval comes two weeks after Bricklemyer appeared before commissioners upset that the project had not been able to move forward. He feared the delays would cause his clients to miss bankers' deadlines and jeopardize the project.
His clients had been told to work with developers for the proposed Pasco Town Centre to hash out who should pay for which road improvements. But the two were unable to hammer out a deal. Bricklemyer claimed that Pasco Town Centre was dragging its feet.
Developers for the town center want to put a 2-million-square- foot mall near the interchange. They came to the county in January and said they couldn't afford the $70-million in road improvements the state wanted. They asked that other developments, namely Bella Verde, share the cost of the road improvements that were needed for Pasco Town Centre to move forward.
The approval on Wednesday frees Bella Verde from having to coordinate with the town center. Under the agreement, New Cities agreed to provide money for the loop — but not until it builds 2,000 units.
Florida Department of Transportation representative Bob Clifford gave his blessing to the agreement.
"We tried to tie Pasco Town Centre to this and I realize we had to negotiate these things separately," he told commissioners.
Donna Feldman, attorney for Pasco Town Centre, said she thought the deal "gives room for Pasco Town Centre to be treated fairly."
Bricklemyer said the next step for Bella Verde would be to secure right of way for road improvements.
In other business:
Commissioners allowed a proposed pub to open in Trouble Creek Shopping Center, 550 feet from Cornerstone Community Church near New Port Richey. The property lines were less than 1,000 feet apart, forcing the business to seek a variance from county rules that ban alcohol sales in such cases. Church representatives, who initially opposed the request, did not show up Wednesday. They said they thought it had come from a pizza place across the street but dropped their objections when they learned it was a different part of the shopping center farther away.