DADE CITY — Pasco commissioners cleared the way Tuesday for a project that will transform Wesley Chapel's Wiregrass Ranch with a new community college campus, a hospital and a huge recreational complex that could include a hockey rink, sports fields and other entertainment.
"We're really, in 2010, watching a city evolve," said Commissioner Ann Hildebrand after the board unanimously approved the plans.
"It is exciting, really exciting," Chairwoman Pat Mulieri said. "The college, the hospital, the shops."
The 5,000-acre Wiregrass Ranch, which has been owned by the Porter family since World War II, is now one of the largest regional developments on Florida's west coast.
The changes approved by commissioners include:
• Setting aside enough land to accommodate a 300,000-square-foot "attractions and recreation facility," according to papers filed with the county.
• Quadrupling the number of hotel rooms to 480 from 120, adding an 18-hole golf course and specifying nearly 200,000 of the more than 2 million square feet of proposed office space for medical buildings to support Wesley Chapel Medical Center, the 80-bed hospital that's set to be built on Bruce B. Downs Boulevard north of State Road 56. The hospital, expected to employ 400 people, is in the state permitting stage.
• Reducing the number of homes by 1,205.
• Adding a land use to clear the way for a new branch of Pasco-Hernando Community College, which could accommodate as many as 1,100 students.
• Giving flexibility in the location of a county park. This could be key if the county approves a proposed land swap that would take proposed sports fields off a site that now has no road access.
• Extending the time for work on several roads that must be completed as part of the project, including Meadow Pointe Boulevard and County Road 54.
PHCC president Kathy Johnson told the commissioners that the new Spring Hill campus already had 1,300 students. She expects classes to fill up at the $45 million Wesley Chapel campus one day, too.
"We anticipate this will be much needed," she said.
In other business, commissioners approved a rezoning that would someday put 1,999 homes on 825.5 acres at the future State Road 56 extension and Morris Bridge Road in east-central Pasco.
The residential development, called River Landing, would include 1,257 single-family homes, 400 multifamily homes and 342 townhomes. The land is owned by the Linville family of Zephyr Egg Co.
The commissioners approved the zoning change to a master planned unit development from agricultural district. But they delayed for two weeks a vote on a request by the landowners' to avoid having to build a frontage road along State Road 56 under certain conditions.
Jodie Tillman can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 869-6247.