DADE CITY — Pasco leaders have talked for years about how to improve life for the residents of Lacoochee, the county's poorest community. Now, they have a blueprint for how they want to do that.
Commissioners on Tuesday adopted a new redevelopment plan for the Lacoochee and Trilby areas, a critical first step in attracting public and private investment to a part of the county that has struggled ever since the Cummer Cypress Co. shut down its sawmill operation in 1959.
In some ways, the blueprint envisions almost starting a community from scratch, something that excites the planners leading the way, Commissioner Ted Schrader observed.
"I could just see a glow in their eyes to re-establish what was there before," he said.
The 62-page plan outlines a number of goals, from putting in streetlights and sidewalks in Trilby village to setting up a workforce training center that would harmonize with the long hoped-for redevelopment of the old Cummer Mill operation.
It also calls for more studies, from devising a new truck route to the old sawmill operation — a necessity since the current route goes in front of the Lacoochee Elementary School — to coming up with a new plan for bringing utilities to the area, which is now served by a small and troubled wastewater plant.
How will they pay for all that? Officials say the plan itself serves as an application of sorts for federal and state grant money as well as for private investors who may be looking to bring a large business into the old Cummer Mill site, which is served by a rail spur.
Commissioners are also planning to ask Sen. Bill Nelson and Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite to seek federal appropriations for the redevelopment, though they did not settle on what exactly they would ask for.
The plan calls for $2.7-million in capital improvements, including beautification projects on U.S. 301, a water and wastewater master plan and upgrades to the Trilby Community Center, in the first five years. Long-term improvements total at least $4.2-million.
Commissioners are also hoping to create the first community redevelopment agency in unincorporated Pasco around the Lacoochee/Trilby area.
That would allow the county to freeze the tax base at a particular year's levels. Any taxes generated in that area as values increase above the base year would be spent only in the Lacoochee and Trilby redevelopment area, rather than go into the countywide general fund.
"That's going to be critical that you provide a funding source," said Schrader.
Schrader added he wanted to "keep the momentum flowing." He said he wanted to see if Sheriff Bob White would use inmate labor to clean up the area in case the Pasco Economic Development Council is taking potential business owners out to the old sawmill site.
Jodie Tillman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6247.