Thursday, April 26, 2018
News Roundup

Year in review: Pasco boom turned pastures into neighborhoods

Pasco County’s past gave way to its future in 2017.

Tracts that at one time had been farmed as Starkey, Behnke, Bexley, and Epperson ranches blossomed into residential neighborhoods with high-end amenities ranging from bicycle trails to parks and the nation’s first Crystal Lagoon.

The Asturia development, formerly the Behnke ranch in Odessa, will be the site of 200,000 square feet of Class A spec space for office/industrial use thanks to a $7 million county loan. Wiregrass Ranch in Wesley Chapel continued to fill with the opening of an Audi dealership, the ongoing construction of a hotel and other commercial and residential expansions.

The former Lester’s Dairy in Land O’Lakes is being developed as the Cypress Preserve residential community. And the Cannon Ranch – first sold for development 30 years ago – is now known as Mirada. That project, just south of State Road 52 is part of Metro Development Group’s connected-city corridor and is envisioned as the site of 4,000 homes and a second Crystal Lagoon.

The Crystal Lagoon in Epperson, measuring more than six football fields long and four-fifths of a mile around, essentially is a manufactured lake and beach with high-tech purifiers to keep the water sparkling.

After nearly 18 months of scrutiny and negotiations, Pasco County commissioners authorized that connected-city corridor in February, allowing Metro to create the nation’s first gigabit community built from the ground up.

The corridor is a 7,800-acre planning district of largely undeveloped land in Wesley Chapel and east Pasco. It is planned as a community of 96,000 people, 66,000 jobs and 37,000 homes if the 50-year projections hold true.

To help mitigate the effects of growth, commissioners approved a higher school impact fee on new home construction to finance additional classrooms. And to combat long-standing drainage problems, commissioners increased the county’s stormwater assessment on all property owners.

The growing tax base, however, allowed commissioners to adopt a new budget with a status quo property tax rate while dipping into reserves to re-open libraries on Mondays and to eliminate the $2 fee to park vehicles at county parks.

Commissioners turned to an outsider to help guide growth, picking Dan Biles from Alabama to be county administrator. Biles, a civil engineer and retired U.S. Air Force colonel, replaced the retiring Michele Baker who left after four years as administrator.

Contact C.T. Bowen at [email protected] or 813-435-7306. Follow @ctbowen2

PAST COVERAGE: Pasco plugs in connected city.

PAST COVERAGE: Administrator sets out to do the impossible.

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