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County to decide density of project in rural Blanton

BLANTON — A controversial subdivision that would be the first of its kind to dot the rolling hills of Blanton is up for a third vote Tuesday.

And unlike earlier votes before the county's top staff and planning commissioners, this one can't end in a tie. The decisionmaker this time is the five-member Pasco County Commission.

"Not unless someone gets sick on me," said zoning administrator Debra Zampetti.

County leaders have been struggling since spring with a developer's request to build 266 homes on 403 acres across from Pasco-Hernando Community College. Planner Michael Holbrook, who represents owners of the old Touchton property, wanted to build 266 homes but shuffled plans after opposition from neighbors. He returned with a proposal that still called for the same number of homes, but with some that would sit on bigger lots. Developers also offered to install 300 feet of buffer, triple the initial amount, on one edge of the project.

The project qualified as a "conservation subdivision," which under county rules approved in March allows for greater density as long as more than half the property is set aside as green space. The developers offered 51 percent.

Still, county officials were reluctant to recommend the plan for final approval. Berry Hill would be the first development of any real density in the area, and County Administrator John Gallagher wanted to tread carefully.

After listening to pleas from neighbors fearful that the new neighborhood would ruin their rural lifestyle, the county's Development Review Committee ended the discussion with a 3-3 tie, which technically counts as a denial. Later, planning commissioners were equally torn, with that group unable to break a 4-4 deadlock. That also was technically a denial but still sends the matter to the County Commission, which has the final say.

Even if the developers fail to win approval for the conservation subdivision, the land doesn't have to sit vacant.

The zoning is agricultural/residential, which allows for homes on 1 acre lots.

"Under those rules, they could put mobile homes on those lots," Zampetti said. Also, current rules don't limit how close to the road those homes can be put.

Zampetti called the case "challenging" and said the developers had followed all the rules to get the higher-density development.

"If someone opposes it, then they just don't like the ordinance," she said.

It's not that the property can't be developed. Under existing zoning rules, 200 homes could be built there with no special county approval.

Lisa Buie can be reached at buie@sptimes.com or (813) 909-4604.

>>Fast facts

If you go

What: Public hearing on a proposal to develop the Touchton property, Pasco County Commission meeting.

When: Commissioners start hearing agenda items at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Where: Pasco County Historic Courthouse, 37918 Meridian Ave., Dade City

More info: Visit egov.pascocountyfl.net/Content/ECM/ConsolidatedAgendas/BCC_

LPA_10-07-2008/Outline.pdf or call the Zoning Department at (727) 847-8132.

County to decide density of project in rural Blanton 10/05/08 [Last modified: Monday, October 6, 2008 5:06pm]
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