DADE CITY — A nearly 296-acre office and industrial park that developers say would create 3,275 jobs when built out in 2018 won preliminary approval Thursday from the county's top planners.
The site, on the east side of U.S. 301, is owned by the Jordan family, one of the area's pioneer families, who have held it since 1880, said land use attorney Clarke Hobby. It sits about a mile north of the Dade City Business Center.
"It's been in their family for six generations," since Henry Jordan migrated from Georgia, Hobby said. The property now includes the homes of family members.
A group of top county administrators, known as the Development Review Committee, gave their blessing to the family's request for a rezoning from agricultural use to a master planned development unit for an employment center.
The request will need final approval from the County Commission.
Hobby said the project would create "high-wage jobs" but that developers don't have any companies lined up yet.
The proposal drew praise from County Administrator John Gallagher.
"It feels good to work on something good, doesn't it?" Gallagher asked Hobby.
The plans come at a time when the county has been trying to transform itself from a bedroom community in which half the residents leave the county to work, to one that boasts high-level jobs closer to home.
Plans include more than 1.2 million square feet of industrial space, 98,000 square feet of commercial and professional office space, and 540 apartments and townhome-type residences. At the center would be a business park, surrounded by homes and sites for industries on the county and state's target list. Those include everything from research labs to food and beverage plants to software development.
The railroad runs along the eastern border, and plans call for a possible spur.
Hobby said the rezoning would "tee up" a site that could attract the type of industry the county wants.
An economic development executive agreed.
"This begins to bring a product online that's most important for attracting companies," said John Walsh, interim president of the Pasco Economic Development Council. "It's a great area for access to Central Florida, with State Road 50 to the north and Interstate 4 to the south."
Pasco County Commissioner Ted Schrader, whose district includes the site, said rail access will be a real plus.
"Hopefully some companies will come and manufacture something and ship it out of the county and the money will come back to the county," he said. Schrader said the land was envisioned as an employment center when the county last evaluated its long-term growth plan. He said the Jordans, a citrus family, "see the need for and the benefit of the creation of jobs."
Hobby said the plans were designed around the property's natural features, such as wetlands, and would include 100-foot setbacks, pine tree buffers and "a beautiful cypress head."
"I'm awfully glad we were able to do that," he said.
Hobby described the project as an example of a large landowner acting in the best interest of the county rather than taking the quick dollar.
"It would have been easy to sell this to a residential developer."
Lisa Buie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 909-4604.