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Connected city advances, despite some disinterest from inside the corridor

DADE CITY — The connected city corridor has hit a short circuit.

On the day the massive planning area received its initial county government approvals, two of the property owners in what would be the southeast corner of the 7.800-acre district bowed out.

"We don't want to be involved,'' Realtor Joseph T. Hurley told Pasco County's Development Review Committee.

Hurley said he was representing the Spada family, owner of the planned Wildcat Groves employment center, and an adjoining property owner. Together, the parcels total 191 acres, he said.

Wildcat Groves is proposing 111 acres of businesses, professional offices and 448 apartments at the northeast quadrant of the future Interstate 75 interchange at Overpass Road — essentially the southwestern gateway to the connected city corridor.

Hurley did not elaborate on the owners' objections other than to say they wanted to remain under the current system, in which developments are reviewed by the DRC — county administrators and representatives of the Pasco School District and Pasco Economic Development Council — rather than by the connected city's management committee. He declined further comment when contacted by the Tampa Bay Times.

Individual homeowners have objected to the connected city concept previously, but Hurley's comment was the first publicly stated opposition from a development interest within the corridor's boundaries. Though it put the landowners' disagreements on record, it had little practical effect because, under the terms of the proposal, property owners must opt in to participate, not opt out.

"(The connected city concept) has scared a lot of people,'' attorney Joel Tew, representing Metro Development Group, acknowledged ahead of Hurley's comments. "It is different. It is very big and it's scary because you don't really know where you're headed.''

The connected city corridor, a state-authorized pilot program, is proposed to be the nation's first smart gigabit community built, over the next 50 years, from the ground up. The district is bordered approximately by Interstate 75 on the west, Curley Road on the east, Overpass Road on the south and extends just north of State Road 52. It includes four planned residential projects encompassing thousands of homes by Metro Development — Epperson Ranch South, EpcoRanch North, Ashley Grove and the former Cannon Ranch, now known as Mirada.

In exchange for promoting job creation, alternative transportation, limits on sprawl and environmental protections, the private developments escape state planning reviews, with a seven-member management committee and county commissioners providing the oversight.

Last week, the DRC unanimously approved amending the county's comprehensive plan and land development code to create the district. County commissioners will consider that recommendation at hearings in December and January. Five other ordinances and planning documents, including the financial and transportation plans, are scheduled to be heard by the DRC on Nov. 10.

Property owners seeking to be guided by the connected city rules must also agree to pay surcharges to help finance $322 million worth of roads, school land and other required infrastructure to serve a projected 96,000 residents.

A significant trade-off, however, is a generous transportation fee credit from the county in exchange for setting aside land and infrastructure for more than 7 million square feet of employment centers. The space, known as a service-ready site, is targeted for industrial uses and office space, not construction or retailing jobs.

"Residential, regional malls, forget it. Don't even ask me about that because they're not going to be included in those service-ready sites,'' said Ernie Monaco, Pasco's assistant planning and development administrator.

Tew, in an earlier interview, admitted the transportation fee credits are a sore point outside the connected city corridor.

"We are getting some objections from some competitors who think we are getting too sweet a deal, and my response to them is one of two things. If it's that good a deal, opt in. And, if it's also that good a deal and you can't join us, then why don't you go invent a better mousetrap and get your (own) deal?''

The county's rationalization for the transportation fee formula — allowing developers, for the first time, to get credit for building the first two lanes of their primary roads — is the overall long-term economic benefit.

Tom Lavash, a Washington, D.C.-based economic adviser, said the connected city corridor could be responsible for 65,000 permanent jobs by 2065.

Connected city advances, despite some disinterest from inside the corridor 10/18/16 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 19, 2016 6:07pm]
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