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Epperson Ranch development plan gets first okay from Pasco County

DADE CITY — Top county officials backed a plan Thursday to rezone farmland that will someday become home to a town center, with thousands of houses, stores and offices.

Epperson Ranch is about 1,700 acres of pasture about 1.5 miles east of Interstate 75, midway between State Roads 52 and 54.

The county's Development Review Committee supported rezoning it from agricultural to a classification that allows for suburban development. The proposal needs to come to the County Commission for final approval.

When completed, the development is expected to have a town center straddling Curley Road with 50,000 square feet of office space, 209,000 square feet of commercial land, a 100-room hotel and 3,905 homes, as well as a site for an elementary school. The company has not announced when construction will begin.

In November, county commissioners gave initial approval to the development, which had been in limbo for about a year and a half because of the housing market collapse. Commissioner Ted Schrader, whose twin brother Terry is a real estate agent for the family selling the property, abstained.

The move is another step in getting the development back on track. Originally owned by Lennar Homes, the development was on the verge of getting county approval when Lennar sold out to Metro Development Group, which put the project on hold while it digested its big haul from Lennar's fire sale.

The county requires the developer to build a pipeline project that would expand two-lane Curley Road to four lanes, with the potential for six lanes if needed.

On Thursday, development representatives and county officials haggled over details. Those included requiring homes to be 25 feet from the street. Developers argued that other subdivisions were allowed to be only 20 feet. County Administrator John Gallagher called it "a real life issue" and described it as a reaction to numerous complaints from residents about parked cars blocking access to sidewalks. County officials agreed to bend the rule to require only that garages sit back 25 feet.

Developers also won the right to build a local road through the development where a larger collector road had been required.

However, county officials took issue with the placement of the school, which now sits south of the proposed town center. They want it moved closer to the shops and offices.

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

Epperson Ranch development plan gets first okay from Pasco County 05/14/09 [Last modified: Thursday, May 14, 2009 7:35pm]
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