NEW PORT RICHEY — Over the objections of environmentalists, the Pasco County Commission gave its preliminary blessing Tuesday to a proposal that would allow 200 acres near the Anclote River to be earmarked for dense residential development, business and light industry.
The land, already surrounded by residential development, sits south of State Road 54 east of Madison Street in the Elfers area and is owned by members of the Harvey family.
It is now designated for six homes per acre. The change would double that on about 90 acres of the property, and allow four times that amount — 24 residential units per acre — on nearly 11 acres, according to the proposal submitted to the county. The potential total number of homes, 1,130, is less than what developers could get under the current designation.
But the proposal would set aside 30 acres for commercial use and about 24 acres for light industry such as office parks, and reserve a little more than 35 acres along the river as conservation land.
Environmentalists, many of them from Pinellas County, said they feared possible effects downstream. Some nearby residents said they worried about flooding caused by the proposed project.
Representatives of the property owners say the proposal protects the river and allows for a 50-foot setback from the flood line. It also preserves all the required wetlands by designating them as conservation land, and, as required in the county land development code, does not set aside adjacent land for industrial uses.
A report submitted by the county's consultant says the project would create between 725 and 1,332 jobs between now and 2025, when it is expected to be built out.
Opponents have said they are concerned that the area has a freshwater spring that connects to the aquifer and runs into the river as well as two sinkholes.
County biologist Bob Tietz told commissioners that he walked the property on Monday and gathered some initial impressions. He said he found the freshwater spring — complete with mullet and bass — as well as a building foundation, likely from an early homesteader. He said he found the relics of an old sinkhole but could find no evidence of recent sinkhole activity.
The project is in the earliest stages of approval. It will also need the state's blessing, and officials expect that final approval could be 18 months away.
"I just view this as another opportunity for the commission staff and public to chime in on this particular project," said Commissioner Ted Schrader. "From a planning standpoint, I think this is where we're trying to go."
Jodie Tillman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6247.