A former citrus grove providing a spate of greenery on the bank of the Anclote River in urbanized west Pasco County is going to be developed. No question about it. The county's comprehensive land use plan allows the agriculturally zoned property on State Road 54 roughly 3 miles north of the Pinellas County line to become the site of more than 1,000 residences.
A key question for Pasco commissioners to consider when they meet today, though, is how the property will develop. A plan that allows all of the permissible residential units plus commercial and light industrial space raises legitimate concerns about too much density alongside the river.
Certainly the land belonging to the Harvey family trust will not remain pristine. An elementary school sits directly beside it and residential and commercial development is all around it. Such infill development — building on land already surrounded by infrastructure — should be encouraged to combat sprawl.
But a comprehensive plan amendment to be considered by Pasco commissioners today would allow all 1,043 residences to be built — mostly in multi-family rather than single-family housing — plus set aside 24 acres for industrial land and 40 acres for commercial development.
The amendment addresses the need for identifying light industrial space in the western inland area of the county. That the private sector is trying to respond to the 2008 Urban Land Institute's report to bolster Pasco's long-term economy is good, but allowing all of the residential density to remain as well strikes us as too much of a good thing.
Pinellas environmental advocates, some of them veterans of the fight to keep a Wal-Mart Supercenter off the Anclote just south of the Pinellas-Pasco line, are concerned about water quality in the Anclote River and other natural resource safeguards spelled out in Pasco's wellhead protection ordinance for special areas — such as sinkholes. The proposed amendment sets aside more then 30 acres of wetlands as conservation land. It also promises to meet the county's 50-foot setback requirements from the river and to locate the industrial land away from the Anclote.
Those are appropriate buffers, but as the project moves through the site development phase, county staffers and commissioners must ensure other protections are not compromised.
Commissioners should not prohibit development on the 200-acre parcel, but they should limit how much is allowed and where it will go in order to help safeguard the Anclote River, a protected Florida waterway and a key to the sponging, fishing and tourism industries in nearby Tarpon Springs.