A Pasco County Commission majority resurrected the sins of the past by picking political expediency over Florida law and their own land use code. Last week, Commissioners Pat Mulieri, Henry Wilson and Jack Mariano refused to approve a proposed apartment complex on properly zoned land after hearing complaints from the surrounding Riverside Estates and Heritage Lakes neighborhoods in west Pasco. Instead, the trio remanded the issue to the county's top administrators, sitting as the Development Review Committee, even though their own attorney warned, "I really don't know what more DRC is going to be able to do with this case.''
No kidding. That panel already approved the apartment complex after ordering an independent review of the engineering work to try to appease concerns about potential future flooding.
No matter. The opponents appealed to the commission and the majority punted rather than offend the objectors including Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, and Tax Collector Mike Fasano, a former Heritage Lakes resident. Corcoran, an attorney, should be embarrassed by his advice. He told the commission to invite a lawsuit and reject the proposed apartments that had met each county condition for approval. He must have forgotten that elected officials are sworn to uphold the Constitution.
If a legal challenge comes, expect a quick end because the commission has no defensible position. It is reminiscent of the governing in 1993-94 when Circuit Court Judge Maynard Swanson twice overturned commissioners' land-use rulings and criticized their judgment.
"The real basis for the (commission's) decision appears to be a political response to the opinion of a very vocal group of people espousing the NIMBY (not in my backyard) principle,'' Swanson wrote then. "This is unacceptable for a governmental board that is required to act in a quai-judicial manner.''
Not much as changed. An apartment complex of 102 units in the middle of a residential neighborhood is far from ideal, but it is not illegal, particularly when the mulfifamily zoning dates to the early 1980s.
The commission majority's ploy to push the matter back to the staff and ordering more drainage and engineering assessments — without specifying who is responsible for the cost — just delays a final resolution. Avoidance is not leadership no matter what a state legislator advises.