NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco County would give up ownership of a 4-acre parcel in a Wesley Chapel industrial park to attract a new business under a deal approved Tuesday by a divided County Commission.
The move would return the land at ComPark 75 to private hands after the county took it for a future "public safety site" in a 1999 deal with previous owners. The property has sat vacant since then. Commissioners hope to attract a new company by selling it at a discount.
"That should help a business, if you're thinking about coming here, to move quicker," said Commissioner Jack Mariano.
But the deal isn't done. The industrial park's owner, who had demanded the county return the land, could only sell it for half of its appraised value. That might not be enough for ComPark owner Larry Morgan to sign off on the plan.
An earlier proposal would have let Morgan sell the parcel for the full appraised value of $350,000, which is roughly 15 percent less than what it could fetch on the open market. A majority of commissioners said cutting the price in half gives a business the incentive to move in quickly.
It also wouldn't leave the county on the hook for more money if the business creates more jobs than required and qualifies for additional incentives.
Commissioner Pat Mulieri vocally opposed the plan: "If you owned that property, would you think that's a good deal?" After struggling with the decision, Commissioner Henry Wilson sided with her.
Spring Engineering president Rich Bekesh has been lobbying commissioners on behalf of Morgan. During discussion, Bekesh left the audience and stood silently at the lectern as an associate argued Morgan's position.
After the 3-2 vote, Bekesh demanded to know which commissioners voted for the deal.
"This is a two-party agreement," he told the board. "Both parties have to agree. Now I have to go back and sell it (to Morgan)."