Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pasco commission candidates spar online over SunWest plans

Early last week, County Commissioner Jack Mariano and challenger Bill Gunter sparred at a public debate over Mariano's staunch support of the SunWest channel dredging project in Aripeka. The debate migrated to an online message board this week, with Gunter questioning his opponent's involvement in the plan and Mariano defending the project as an economic booster.

The proposal calls for a 4-mile-long, 60-foot-wide channel to provide deepwater access to the Gulf. It would be attached to a future county park with seven boat ramps and 250 boat parking spaces. It also would be shared by the proposed 2,500-home luxury development called SunWest Harbourtowne.

Commissioners also have given tentative approval to a separate plan for Orlando-based Wake Park Project to build and operate a wakeboard park on a picturesque lake at the site.

The latest debate began with a letter to the editor in the Times from Pasco Democratic Party chairman Lynn Lindeman, who criticized Mariano for "cheering for an unneeded, environmentally damaging project."

After the letter was posted online, Gunter posted a comment saying the project "basically benefits two people: the wake board owner and the landowner whose property value will sky rocket once the taxpayer dollars are spent to widen the channel."

Gunter, a minister from New Port Richey, argued the area doesn't have enough population, infrastructure or hotels to support the project. "My opponent's infatuation with this project given the above is just plain strange," he wrote.

A day later, Mariano responded: "I don't blog but I have to make an exception to clarify what is really happening in the SunWest county park and SunWest Harbourtowne (development)."

Mariano said Gunter misconstrued the plan. He said the developer gave the county $3 million to develop the park as part of a settlement agreement. He also said the project would benefit all Pasco residents. "The sheer influx of tourism dollars will pump (up) this economy like never before."

He added: "I think a little review of District 5 will show we have several new hotels … who would love to see some investment to bring tourists to Pasco."

Mariano answered environmentalist critics by noting the channel's proposed alignment avoids some areas with lush seagrass. He also pointed to mitigation proposals to regrow seagrass in some areas. The channel has been tied up for months awaiting a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Lee Logan can be reached at or (727) 869-6236.

Pasco commission candidates spar online over SunWest plans 07/27/12 [Last modified: Monday, October 15, 2012 3:16pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. This 'SNL' writer is cracking up Twitter with his replies to President Donald Trump's tweets


    Josh Patten is a writer for Saturday Night Live. Earlier this month, he began responding to President Donald Trump's tweets as if they were private texts to Patten.

  2. Snooty the manatee's death prompts outpouring of support, petition to move Confederate monument


    BRADENTON — The South Florida Museum aquarium remains closed Monday and tributes continue to pour in following the shocking death of Snooty, the beloved manatee who captured the hearts of …

    Four-year-old Katie Blair pays her respects to Snooty at a makeshift memorial in front of the museum on Sunday. Katie and her family has visited the aquarium to see Snooty four times this year. 
Snooty was the world's oldest living manatee in captivity and celebrated his 69th birthday Friday at the aquarium. Aquarium officials described Snooty's death as a tragic accident and is being investigated. [LUIS SANTANA   |   Times]

  3. What to watch this week: 'Midnight, Texas,' Shark Week specials


    It's that time of year again. No, not back-to-school month or geek convention season - it's Shark Week.

    Midnight, Texas, a new supernatural series on NBC, premieres at 10 p.m. Monday.
  4. Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner: 'I did not collude with Russia' (w/video)


    WASHINGTON — Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law, spent about two hours Monday answering questions from Senate investigators about his contacts with Russian officials, insisting he had not colluded with foreign agents before or after the 2016 presidential campaign.

    Trump senior adviser Jared Kushner speaks to reporters outside the White House on Monday after meeting on Capitol Hill behind closed doors with the Senate Intelligence Committee on the investigation into possible collusion between Russian officials and the Trump campaign. [Pablo Martinez Monsivais | Associated Press]
  5. Polk County officials urge owner to remove pet buried at public park

    Human Interest

    Lake Wales city officials are looking for the owner who buried their dead dog in a public park.

    Lake Wales city officials are looking for the owner who buried their dead dog in a public park. [Facebook]