NEW PORT RICHEY — A 3-mile stretch of land at State Road 54 and Little Road could be earmarked as the county's future western urban hub, with homes, shops and office parks, under a new county land use classification.
The 1,159 acres, mostly owned by the pioneer Mitchell family, includes 20 parcels and encompasses areas east and west of the intersection on the south side of SR 54.
County officials said the move comes after examining the area and seeing a hodgepodge of entitlements that weren't good fits with the surrounding area. The new designation would not change those land uses but would merely reshuffle them.
"It would shake them up and rearrange them," said Carol Clarke, the county's senior planner. She said leaving things as is would mean the developers might have to seek an amendment of the growth plan for each parcel as the area is developed over the long term. The process for such amendments is cumbersome, and state approval also is required. Under the western hub classification, only local rezonings would be necessary. Requests for more dense development would still have to go through a more rigorous process.
The property now is set aside for a number of uses, including restaurant, office and residential, as well as heavy industry right next to schools and homes. The new plan would change that to light industry. But the arrangement benefits neither the county nor the owner, officials said.
The proposal "serves as the logical extension of urban development in a sustainable form" while using densities and intensities currently allowed by the county's blueprint for growth.
"The Western Hub provides for a variety of land uses supporting residents and employees of diverse ages, incomes and family sizes. The classification will reduce automobile trips and trip lengths through the use of connected, multi-model transportation systems, create efficiency in planning and the provision of infrastructure and functional open space," according to the memo written by county planners.
The proposal is set to come up today before top county administrators meeting as the Development Review Committee. However, county commissioners will have the final say.
This new land use classification has been crafted as a "creative approach" to development on the southern side of the Little Road/SR 54 corridor, the memo said.
It also affords the flexibility for the area to someday be a site for light rail and other urban development the county envisions for the SR 54 corridor, which will be part of the county's "south market area." Pasco officials are working on a plan to streamline future development that divides parts of the county into such areas, with the south area being the most urbanized.
"The land use designations that have been established were done back in the mid and late 1980s," said Dewey Mitchell, a member of the Mitchell family and a local businessman. "They need to be updated and tweaked to fit with what we see to be the future market."
He said a heavy emphasis will be on getting transit and related development in the area.
"I'm glad to see the region embracing transit and what it can do for us," he said.
Mitchell said the family had no specific plans for the area but wanted to be prepared "for when the market turns around and becomes more viable."