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.