NEW PORT RICHEY — A proposed apartment complex that has drawn widespread opposition from neighbors is on hold while a judge reviews state drainage permits, though the county could still move forward with site plan approval.
The Oaks Apartments at Riverview Village had obtained permit approval from the state Department of Environmental Protection, but the agency sent the matter to a judge after members of Heritage Lake Homeowners Association said they were not informed about them, as required in an agreement between DEP and the apartment site's previous owner. Heritage Lake also is challenging the permits.
However, the county could still let the developer move forward if it rejects an appeal from the neighbors, which formed a group called weare5533strong.com.
"It'll be up to the Development Review Committee," said County Administrator John Gallagher, who serves as chairman of the committee.
In September, county staffers approved plans for the complex, which call for a first phase of six two-story units, a 3,000-square-foot clubhouse, swimming and splash pools, a playground, picnic pavilions, tennis and basketball courts, a mulched car wash area, a 2-acre park with an open play area, parking lots and seven garages. County staffers say the development, proposed by Clearwater-based Scherer Development, meets or exceeds all land use requirements, and the land is already zoned as multifamily.
In November, opponents appealed the staff decision to the development review committee. That group postponed a decision until 1:30 p.m. Jan. 24 after listening to neighbors raise questions about the accuracy of information used to calculate drainage needs. The hearing drew about 200 residents, mostly homeowners who live near the proposed complex on Amazon Drive. Reasons for their opposition include lower property values, increased traffic, noise, and flooding.
Shortly after that, DEP agreed to defer to a judge, a move that prompted state Rep. Mike Fasano, also an opponent of the proposed complex, to send Gallagher a letter asking that the county hold off on any decision until the state permit issues are cleared up, which could take months.
"If (the administrative law judge) were to rule in favor of the petitioners then any action by the county will be for naught," Fasano wrote. "The time and expense the county and the petitioners would have to invest in a process that could be moot would be wasted. "
Gallagher said the DRC would have to vote to delay the matter, and that has to happen in a public meeting. So the issue will remain on the Jan. 24 calendar.