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Environmentalists offer Pasco demands on T. Rowe Price project

LAND O'LAKES — An environmental group has given county officials a list of demands that it wants met before it will agree to drop its challenge to the proposed T. Rowe Price project.

Only one of Citizens for Sanity's six demands is about T. Rowe Price.

The other five address broader development issues, from increasing wetland buffer zones to establishing wildlife ordinances.

Citizens for Sanity member Clay Colson said the group came up with the additional demands after County Commission Chairman Jack Mariano called him to try to persuade him to drop his permit challenge. Colson said the list is part of settlement discussions.

"They wanted to know what needed to be done," Colson said. "And when you ask me what needs to be done, I'll tell you what needs to be done."

State Sen. Mike Fasano questioned Citizens for Sanity's motivations, saying Colson had told him that he wanted only to get the county's attention.

"They have jeopardized a project because they're trying to send a message to the commission," Fasano said. "They should be ashamed of themselves."

Plans to lure the investment firm — and 1,600 jobs — to central Pasco hit a roadblock last week after Citizens filed its objection to Southwest Florida Water Management District's permit for the proposed office complex on 94 acres off State Road 54.

The environmental group objected to the proposed destruction of a wetland area on the site, which T. Rowe's engineers say is less than a quarter of an acre. Colson said in an interview that any passer-by can tell the wetland is much bigger than that.

County and state officials, who have been courting T. Rowe Price since last summer, say they are racing against the clock because the firm may walk away from its $26-million financial incentive package if the permit challenge takes too long.

Swiftmud spokeswoman Robyn Felix said Wednesday that district officials are hoping to expedite the administrative hearing on the matter.

Colson and fellow Citizens member Dan Rametta met Tuesday for about two hours with Mariano and County Administrator John Gallagher.

Colson and Rametta turned in their list, which was labeled "Proposed Concepts to Resolve the T. Rowe Price Project Matter."

No. 1 on the list was to require the protection of all wetlands and requests that any proposed wetland impacts on the T. Rowe Price parcel or the adjoining parcel to the east be stopped.

Colson said he is convinced the wetland that T. Rowe Price would pave over is larger than a quarter acre, in large part because the developer's engineering firm had already made a mistake in the wetlands delineation on the property just to the east.

He said the group won't drop its challenge unless the wetland is protected. If T. Rowe decides not to impact the wetland, Colson said he'd find another way to pursue the group's other demands.

He said the group will meet soon with other county officials and T. Rowe Price project officials.

Gallagher said Wednesday that he didn't think it was fair to tie the T. Rowe project to bigger policy issues that would require public input, study and time.

"These are larger, global issues that need to be addressed by the board (of County Commissioners)," said Gallagher. "I guess they feel this is something they can gain ground on."

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

Fast Facts

Citizens for Sanity's demands for Pasco:

1. Amend county regulations to require protection of all wetlands. Also eliminate plans to impact wetlands in the Long Lake Ranch DRI, which contains the proposed T. Rowe Price project. Develop a citizens review committee to decide whether wetland impact is unavoidable on projects.

2. Require 50-foot butter from all wetlands, 125-foot buffer from streams, creeks and rivers and a 300-foot buffer from certain other waters.

3. Hire independent hydrologist to verify all Swiftmud storm water management systems.

4. Abide by all current wildlife critical linkage corridor designations in the county's comprehensive plan.

5. Establish wildlife ordinances.

6. Any nonprevailing party in a legal action to enforce the terms of this settlement agreement will pay attorneys' fees.

Environmentalists offer Pasco demands on T. Rowe Price project 03/18/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 18, 2009 10:06pm]
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