NEW PORT RICHEY — The Starkey family won the right Tuesday to build a 4,200-home development on the last piece of its namesake ranch near Trinity.
With family members watching, the County Commission quickly voted 5-0 to approve the development of homes, offices and a movie theater on 2,500 acres off State Road 54. It was pasture that the late Jay B. Starkey obtained in 1937, a ranch that brought the family into prominence in the county.
Now, it's slated to become a mega-development just as the Tampa Bay area waits for a sour real estate market to sweeten. The project already is feeling the slowdown.
The development deal anticipates the first 1,600 homes in 2012. However, Trey Starkey and Perry Reader, Florida president of developer Crosland, acknowledge that number won't be built by then. Although they wouldn't specify a new count, they said the downturn hasn't damped the potential of the project.
"A project this large is bigger than a real estate decline," Reader said.
While breaking ground is still possible by the start of 2009, Reader said 2010 is more likely. He said establishing a quality product and making a good impression on the existing market is more important than pace. The deal includes building the movie theater by 2017.
And despite winning entitlements Tuesday to build, the development still must clear rezoning hurdles, where neighbors could object to the traffic the project would add to busy State Road 54.
"We're going to build a town behind your property," Starkey told one curious man.
The agreement calls for the developers to pay $58.8-million to improve roads, including improving intersections on SR 54.
But commission members have lauded the "new urbanism" the Starkeys and Crosland plan at the ranch near to the Starkey's Longleaf neighborhood, a smaller similar development.
The concept is supposed to encourage more centralized neighborhoods of homes, offices and shopping, reducing sprawl and preserving natural areas. The ranch project is next to the namesake Starkey Wilderness Preserve. The Starkey Center for Nature and Community will operate at the development, run by Laura Starkey who, like Trey, is another grandchild of the patriarch.
About half the mega-development acreage will be set aside for conservation — preserving a legacy, if not the family's run of the land.
David DeCamp can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (800) 333-7505, ext. 6232.