Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Rural traffic limits passed

DADE CITY — Pasco's signature plan to encourage growth in urban areas could face a legal challenge after county commissioners on Tuesday voted to restrict the amount of traffic in rural areas.

Tuesday's changes concern how much traffic a new development can add to a road before the developer must improve or expand the road. Those so-called service levels are graded on an A through F scale, similar to school grades.

Commissioners voted 3-2 to limit most rural roads to a C grade. All roads in the county are currently limited to a D, but officials plan to start allowing different grades for different areas in the county.

The urban western and southern swaths of Pasco would have the worst traffic, with most roads degrading to an E grade or worse. Rural roads would be the most free flowing, and suburban roads would be somewhere in between.

But having lighter rural traffic means higher costs for road improvements. That could make it less profitable to develop in rural areas.

And it could violate an earlier promise made by the county, according to Clarke Hobby, a lawyer who represents many large landowners in northeast Pasco.

"What you would be adopting is a plan to stop all growth," he said. "It's going to create significant problems for our clients in having any reasonable use of their property."

Hobby said the changes violate a 2006 legal agreement that would provide for a "reasonable level of growth" in the rural areas. He said that agreement allowed for roughly 2,400 units over 60,000 acres.

After commissioners voted for the new traffic standards, Hobby said he looks forward to working with the county, though possibly in an "administrative hearing."

That could be a reference to a lawsuit against the "mobility fee" that charges higher transportation fees in rural areas and exempts fees for office and industrial developments, as well as development in planned transit hubs.

Pasco is one of the first counties in Florida to adopt such a plan, and officials say it could be a major tool to combat urban sprawl.

Asked later if his clients would challenge the new fee, Hobby said he didn't want to comment further on "pending litigation." In October, Hobby sent a letter to county staffers with a litany of complaints about the mobility fee, arguing it unfairly penalized rural landowners.

The new traffic standards were pushed by a northeast Pasco citizens group focused on preserving the rural character of the area. Its members noted that most rural roads now operate with relatively little traffic disruption, roughly a B grade.

With a tougher traffic standard, "the initial costs of roads to bring in the development may deter them from building," said Trilby resident Richard Riley, an organizer of the group.

Added Dade City resident Nancy Hazelwood: "The large landowners and the people that work for them have their own opinions. They are in the land business to make money."

Commissioner Pat Mulieri said a C grade — with a D grade exception on nine rural roads — was a compromise that could allow Hobby's clients to develop the 2,400 planned units.

Added Commissioner Jack Mariano: "What are people going to think when it gets to a D?"

But Commissioner Ted Schrader, who was on the short end of the vote with Commissioner Ann Hildebrand, argued strenuously against the changes. He said the rural area has been functioning fine at a D grade for years — even when the Lykes Pasco plant and the Evans citrus processing plant were still operating.

"I just don't want to jeopardize all the good work that's gone into the mobility fee over something that shouldn't be an issue," he said.

Assistant County Attorney David Goldstein said the exceptions to the new road standards should assuage Hobby's concerns. Developers also have three years to opt out of the new system and stick with the old transportation impact fee rules.

"If they didn't like what we were doing, we gave them a three-year window to say, 'I like what you did before better,'" he said.

Rural traffic limits passed 11/15/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 15, 2011 8:32pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Search under way for missing sailors; Navy chief orders inquiry

    Military

    SINGAPORE — The U.S. Navy ordered a broad investigation Monday into the performance and readiness of the Pacific-based 7th Fleet after the USS John S. McCain collided with an oil tanker in Southeast Asian waters, leaving 10 U.S. sailors missing and others injured.

    Damage is visible as the USS John S. McCain steers toward Singapore’s naval base on Monday.
  2. Told not to look, Donald Trump looks at the solar eclipse

    National

    Of course he looked.

    Monday's solar eclipse — life-giving, eye-threatening, ostensibly apolitical — summoned the nation's First Viewer to the Truman Balcony of the White House around 2:38 p.m. Eastern time.

    The executive metaphor came quickly.

    President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump view the solar eclipse from the Truman balcony of the White House, in Washington, Aug. 21, 2017. [Al Drago | New York Times]
  3. Secret Service says it will run out of money to protect Trump and his family Sept. 30

    National

    WASHINGTON — The Secret Service said Monday that it has enough money to cover the cost of protecting President Donald Trump and his family through the end of September, but after that the agency will hit a federally mandated cap on salaries and overtime unless Congress intervenes.

    Secret service agents walk with President Donald Trump after a ceremony to welcome the 2016 NCAA Football National Champions the Clemson Tigers on the South Lawn of the White House on June 12, 2017. [Olivier Douliery | Sipa USA via TNS]
  4. After fraught debate, Trump to disclose new Afghanistan plan

    War

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump will unveil his updated Afghanistan policy Monday night in a rare, prime-time address to a nation that broadly shares his pessimism about American involvement in the 16-year conflict. Although he may send a few thousand more troops, there are no signs of a major shift in …

    U.S. soldiers patrol the perimeter of a weapons cache near the U.S. military base in Bagram, Afghanistan in 2003. Sixteen years of U.S. warfare in Afghanistan have left the insurgents as strong as ever and the nation's future precarious. Facing a quagmire, President Donald Trump on Monday will outline his strategy for a country that has historically snared great powers and defied easy solutions.  [Associated Press (2003)]
  5. Trial begins for man accused of threatening to kill Tampa federal judge

    Criminal

    TAMPA — Jason Jerome Springer was in jail awaiting trial on a firearms charge when he heard inmates talking about a case that had made the news.

    His attorney said Jason Jerome Springer, 39, just talked, and there was “no true threat.”