NEW PORT RICHEY — Without the politicians, the tone was slightly more civil, but the haggling continued Thursday as the county's top planners wrestled with a host of technical issues regarding Trinity communities that officials fear could undermine the county's efforts to attract higher-wage jobs.
At issue: Changes proposed by developers that would add 115 single family homes along busy State Road 54, seen as prime industrial land. Also, the developers wanted to define commerce parks as allowing for medical offices, which county staffers said would create more traffic.
The single-family home request seemed to cause the most trouble, with staffers concerned that the county is ignoring a consultant's report that recommends allocating more land for employment centers. Recent statistics show nearly half of Pasco's work force leaves the county each day for jobs in Hillsborough and Pinellas.
"We keep losing industrial land by changing it to restaurants, gas stations and other ridiculous things," said budget director Mike Nurrenbrock, who was sitting Thursday as a member of the county's Development Review Committee. "It's just killing property that could be done with some really nice stuff." He added that every time such land is lost "it can never be recaptured."
Developers argued that the increase was minimal and they had previously been allowed to change uses as long as entitlements remained intact.
"We've always been a non-geographic project," said Dan Aldridge, a representative for developer Adam Smith Enterprises. "We have legal rights within certain constraints to use that property."
Trinity is a project known as a "development of regional impact," meaning it receives greater scrutiny than smaller ones and must win approvals from the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council and the state Department of Community Affairs. Original plans called for 9,687 homes, 186,000 square feet of medical offices, 43,000 square feet of offices, 1.1 million square feet of retail, more than 1.4 million square feet for commerce parks, a 240 bed hospital and an 840 unit life care center.
In the end, staffers agreed to talk with the developers and try to come up with a mutually acceptable solution. The matter will be discussed at a June 15 meeting in New Port Richey.
Lisa Buie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 909-4604.