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New Pasco high school would need nearby road improvements

DADE CITY — It has yet to be named, and the first brick has yet to be laid, but already the building known simply as High School HHH caused school administrators a brief bout of heartburn Thursday.

The district, which is trying to buy 30 acres off Shady Hills Road 3 miles north of State Road 52 for a future school site, had to get approval from the county Development Review Committee before being able to close on the property.

County staff who reviewed the application said the site was consistent with the county's blueprint for growth. But the fine print showed some conditions, primarily that the school district would have to help pay a yet to be determined "proportionate share" for nearby road improvements, including additional turn lanes at SR 52 and Shady Hills Road.

Assistant superintendent Ray Gadd balked.

"We're not going to agree to pay for this," he told the Pasco Times before the meeting. "We won't need this school for at least 10 years."

The proposed school would be built for 1,868 students and relieve crowding at River Ridge, Hudson, Land O'Lakes and Pasco high schools.

He told the Development Review Committee that "what we need here is a big rubber stamp that says the school district and the county disagree again."

In the end, the Development Review Committee decided that who pays what for road improvements should be a discussion for another day.

"We'll let the elected officials figure it out," County Administrator John Gallagher said. "Hopefully I won't be here."

Committee members gave the site the thumbs up for its suitability, which allows school officials to move forward with the land purchase, based on a new interlocal agreement that the School Board and County Commission each approved, though the state Department of Community Affairs has yet to sign off on.

The county staff had drawn up the paperwork for High School HHH based on the old agreement, which is why it included the language requiring the district to chip in the road money.

This isn't the first time the school district and county have clashed over traffic issues surrounding new school sites.

In February 2007, they feuded over a high school site in Hudson that officials said would need $4.2-million worth of road work. After Gallagher met with superintendent Heather Fiorentino, she indicated the district might contribute $2.2-million toward the cost.

Gadd left Thursday's meeting satisfied.

"Just let me buy my land now," he said, calling the required appearance "a public comedy.

"We can fight later."

In other business, the committee allowed, with conditions, the Shops at Wiregrass to build signs that are larger than code allows on Macy's and Dillard's stores.

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

New Pasco high school would need nearby road improvements 03/27/08 [Last modified: Thursday, March 27, 2008 8:56pm]
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