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Pasco planners give SunWest Harbourtowne resort project a preliminary approval

NEW PORT RICHEY — Developers of a proposed coastal resort got the approval they needed to move forward Thursday after the county's top planners gave preliminary recommendation to change the county's blueprint for growth.

SunWest Harbourtowne wants to build 2,500 homes on 1,064 acres of a limestone mine sitting right on the Hudson coast, south of the Hernando County line.

The project also includes a marina village and resort, an 18-hole golf course, 250 hotel rooms, 500 boat slips and convention center, 250,000 square feet of stores and 50,000 square feet of offices. Construction is scheduled to be completed by 2018.

The county's comprehensive plan now has a hodgepodge of purposes for the area, from light industrial to residential and retail/office/residential. But developers want to make the whole parcel a planned development. Such a designation would let them allocate land uses on the property as they saw fit.

The unanimous vote means that the county staff's recommendation will be sent to county commissioners, both when they wear the hat of the county's local planning agency and again when they act as county commissioners. If approved there, it will be sent to the Florida Department of Community Affairs for comment.

A week before Thursday's vote, the county's top planners held a special meeting in which they expressed concern that the project would be a tourist attraction rather than a mere subdivision.

They asked the developers to include another 250 "transient units" such as hotel rooms to be included in the plans. Planners also asked that developers preserve green space and limit alternative plans for the golf course to prevent it from being used to add rooftops.

Georgianne Ratliff, a planner for the project, argued that the golf course restrictions should be relaxed in case whoever builds the resort wants something else, such as equestrian trails.

"We'll save the same amount for open space," she said.

The vote Thursday is only a baby step for the proposed development, which must jump through numerous hoops with the county and state before ground is broken. The project is called a development of regional impact, which subjects it to extra scrutiny.

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

Pasco planners give SunWest Harbourtowne resort project a preliminary approval 04/23/09 [Last modified: Thursday, April 23, 2009 8:57pm]
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