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Changes to 2009 growth law are on Pasco County wish list

DADE CITY — New state laws that would let Pasco more easily steer growth into two key areas top the county's legislative wish list.

Commissioners on Tuesday put together their priorities for Pasco's legislative delegation, which is scheduled to meet from 1 to 5 p.m. Jan. 21 at J.W. Mitchell High School.

On that list is a request to change portions of Senate Bill 360, the controversial 2009 growth management law that a judge ruled unconstitutional but that essentially remains in effect. That legislation authorized local governments to let developers off the hook on certain road-building requirements if they build in already populated "urban service areas."

Pasco sees its problem as this: The two parts of the county where it wants to concentrate future growth — along U.S. 19 in west Pasco and the State Road 54/56 corridor — may not qualify for those exemptions.

At least that's the interpretation of the state Department of Community Affairs, which shot down commissioners' attempt last year to designate the urban service areas.

Commissioners say that, without the designation, Pasco could not attract developers to the two key markets.

"It's a distinct disadvantage to us if it doesn't get approved," said Commissioner Ted Schrader.

Going hand in hand with that proposed change is this request: A law that would clarify how local governments can scrap the current impact fee system that finances road improvements and replace it with "mobility fees."

County attorneys say that despite SB 360, the law is still unclear on this point.

Officials last November floated a proposal for how the county could afford to give developers a break and charge them less for development in certain areas: Every property tax owner would owe an extra $50, and gas taxes would go up by 5 cents a gallon.

That proposal has generated controversy for the five Republican commissioners, and on Tuesday they were quick to point out that they were not endorsing the higher taxes proposal by supporting the use of mobility fees.

Schrader, who has said in an interview that he opposes that proposal, asked senior assistant county attorney David Goldstein to clarify what their support of the mobility fee concept meant.

"This isn't a green light for the $50 fee," said Goldstein.

Other priorities they cite for lawmakers include:

• Support state efforts to block new federal clean water regulations. County officials say the regulations, which limit the amount of nutrients allowed in the water, could lead to expensive and unnecessary treatment and disposal requirements at its wastewater facility.

• Oppose any legislative efforts to raise revenue by charging local governments a surtax on garbage.

• Support requiring the Public Service Commission to comply with local land-use plans when making decisions about the creation or expansion of water and wastewater utilities.

That became an issue when Skyland Utilities proposed a new service area, and the state commission said it would not consider the proposal's conflict with Pasco and Hernando's land-use plans. Skyland's proposal was withdrawn last week, but Pasco officials say they believe the issue could come back.

• Support legislation that would allow local governments to use a publicly accessible website for legally required advertisements and public notices.

Pasco officials will pitch those priorities during the time they are allocated at this month's legislative delegation meeting.

Commissioners have about a dozen other priorities that include supporting changes to the state's retirement system as well as authorization for a multi-county vote on light rail. They plan to put those proposals into a letter to legislators.

Jodie Tillman can be reached at jtillman@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6247.

.If you go

Legislators' meeting

Pasco's legislative delegation meets from 1 to 5 p.m. Jan. 21 at J.W. Mitchell High School, 2323 Little Road, New Port Richey.

If you want to get on the list to speak, contact Sen. Mike Fasano's office by Jan. 19. Individuals and representatives of area organizations will be allotted up to three minutes per presentation.

For information, contact Fasano's office at (727) 848-5885.

Changes to 2009 growth law are on Pasco County wish list 01/11/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 11, 2011 8:54pm]

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