Monday, January 22, 2018
News Roundup

Zephyrhills keeps door open on brownfield debate

ZEPHYRHILLS — If it was up to council member Charlie Proctor, the city would turn its back on a brownfield designation for 456 acres within the city limits and press on with other municipal business.

His concerns are that the designation will taint the city's reputation as the "City of Pure Water" and that the larger property owners in the proposed area aren't interested in having "brownfields."

While other council members have the same concerns, Proctor's motion to stop considering the designation failed 3-2 during a council meeting Monday night, with only Ken Burgess supporting it.

"I believe it's inevitable it's going to fail, so why waste time?" Proctor said shortly after the council meeting.

In the end, however, the other council members decided they weren't ready to close the door on a program that could bring incentives for redeveloping the area around the Zephyrhills Municipal Airport. Proctor was the sole dissenter in the 4-1 vote to move forward with the process.

Council member Lance Smith made the motion to continue with the designation process, which means next setting up a second and final public hearing on the topic before council makes its ultimate decision.

"I would like to proceed to go forward very cautiously," Smith said when making the motion, adding that if the property owners aren't on board he won't vote in favor of the designation.

Council Vice President Kent Compton seconded the motion, also saying if the property owners aren't on board, he will vote against the designation, too.

Last year, Pasco County received $1 million in grant money to identify areas that could qualify for the brownfield status, which if designated could provide financial incentives to redevelop properties with a history or perception of contamination. The idea is to lure developers to the area to create new jobs in Pasco, in this case along the Chancey Road corridor. But some council members and property owners worry that the stigma attached to the designation could be harmful.

RJ Keetch, assistant city planner, said of the four largest property owners in the city— excluding the city, which owns 272 acres of the proposed area — three have said they were opposed to the designation and one didn't respond to city staff inquiries. Melanie Kendrick, the county's brownfields coordinator, said she spoke with at least one of the owners, though she declined to say which one, as recently as Monday and that person wasn't completely against the move, just needed more information.

"I will go door to door if I need to," she told council, to educate property owners.

Council President Jodi Wilkeson agreed it's important to educate the property owners and that they should want the designation before the city moves forward.

In other news, the Zephyrhills City Council:

• Approved demolition ordinance: The measure provides a more detailed procedure for combatting slum and blight and demolishing such properties when necessary.

• Moved forward with annexations: The council gave initial approval on four annexations totaling about 4 acres. Last month the council passed by resolution waiving all annexation fees to property owners as an incentive to clean up and expand the city's borders.

• Agreed to buy a Chevy Volt: The 2012 electric powered car, which costs $40,700, will be funded by a Department of Energy grant. The car will be assigned to the planning department and an older vehicle that uses more gas will likely go to surplus. A charging station has also been installed at City Hall as part of the grant.

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