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Pasco County approves deal on vacant industrial park land

DADE CITY — Pasco County has agreed to give up ownership of a 4-acre parcel in a Wesley Chapel industrial park as long as the new owners pay economic development incentives to attract a business to the site.

The deal, approved Tuesday by county commissioners, resolves a protracted dispute with Compark 75. The county took the parcel for a "future public safety site" in a 1999 deal with previous owners, but it has sat vacant since then. Compark owner Larry Morgan has demanded the county return the unused land.

Commissioners had previously offered to give the land to Compark, but only if he sold it for half the $350,000 appraised value. But, as assistant county attorney David Goldstein noted, "they didn't like that plan."

Morgan came back with a proposal that drops the capped selling price but requires him to pay up to $100,000 in incentives to attract a new company to the site. The deal also allows him to lease the land to a business.

"I think we've come up with a very workable solution," said Barbara Wilhite, an attorney representing Morgan.

The incentives are based on a business bringing at least 10 jobs at wages above the county average. Economic development officials said the $100,000 figure is a high-end estimate of the incentives a business could earn at that site.

Goldstein said the most attractive part of the agreement is that it frees up money in the county's general fund that otherwise would have gone to the incentives.

"I think they got the message that we care about the general fund," he said.

Commissioner Ted Schrader said he was concerned that Compark might not develop the site for several years and that the incentive amounts in the agreement would lose value. He suggested requiring Compark to pay a higher amount if the county updates its incentive structure.

But Wilhite said she could not agree to a hypothetical change in county law. She argued that clause is unnecessary because Morgan wants to attract a business quickly. She said the property, which is situated along Interstate 75, is one of the most visible parts of the industrial park and could help attract more tenants.

"He has every incentive to move this property," she said.

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In other County Commission news Tuesday

Anti-panhandling ordinance moves forward: Commissioners gave initial approval to an ordinance banning panhandling and solicitation on the medians and sidewalks of major county roads, with a notable exception. The ban would be relaxed during the daytime hours of Sundays, allowing newspaper hawkers, charities and other peddlers to operate then as long as they wear bright-colored vests, carry identification and don't harass drivers. The proposal heads to a final vote at the July 26 board meeting in New Port Richey.

Courthouse named for Robert Sumner: The board agreed to rename east Pasco's courthouse complex as the Robert D. Sumner Judicial Center, in honor of the longtime county attorney who died last month after a battle with lung cancer. He was 76. "What more appropriate way to recognize an attorney who has served his constituents and the county so well?" said Commissioner Ted Schrader, who has known Sumner since he was a kid. The move also has a more practical benefit: It will reduce confusion between the modern courthouse on Live Oak Avenue and the historic courthouse a few blocks away where commission meetings are held.

Praise for Steve Spina: Commissioners offered a resolution congratulating Steve Spina, who will retire next week after 15 years as Zephyrhills city manager. Officials lauded Spina for his communication on issues affecting both the city and the county. "It was a true working relationship with county government," said County Administrator John Gallagher. "We worked together and we accomplished a lot." Spina, a former reporter and editor for the Zephyrhills News, said there's a lot of history between him and the board: He covered commission chairwoman Ann Hildebrand's first campaign in 1984. "I don't think county residents or city residents want us fighting," he said. "They want us working together."

Pasco County approves deal on vacant industrial park land 06/07/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 7, 2011 8:49pm]
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