Sunday, June 24, 2018
Editorials

Fighting blight fight key to west Pasco recovery

Look back at the west Pasco of the 1980s. Trinity was still pencil drawings on a map. Shoppers hustled to Gulfview Square mall from as far away as Hernando County to conduct their commerce. Sparkling new strip centers emerged to house national retailers. Home construction boomed in the newest locations like River Ridge while established neighborhoods, including Embassy Hills and Jasmine Lakes Estates, offered affordable resales of homes built just 10 years earlier.

Today, west Pasco is a mixed-bag at best, dotted by blight, congestion and commercial ugliness. Some strip centers have vacancy rates of 40 percent and high-profile locations attract vandals with spray paint rather than investors with equity. Hernando developed its own retailing district so the influx of shoppers declined. Homes built to lure northern retirees are now workforce housing in declining neighborhoods confronting criminal activity and code enforcement issues. Foreclosure rates are high. Homeless sleep in the woods. Prostitutes walk the streets. The region is an auto-centric relic indicative of an absence of long-range planning and pedestrian-friendly thinking.

Despite its significant shortcomings, west Pasco provides a third of the real estate tax base to the county and is home to 7,000 lots with water access that remain valuable because of their finite supply. And, national chains continue to invest in the area, attracted by the buying power of 200,000 residents and 80,000 motorists driving U.S. 19 each day.

Pasco County is about to embark on a long-term makeover of its western edge, an area that will be dubbed, for marketing purposes, as the Harbors to emphasize its proximity to the marshes and open water of Gulf of Mexico, the potential of a commercial district along the Pithlachascotee River, and the recreational and eco-tourism opportunities in the region.

After three years of in-house planning, inspired by Urban Land Institute suggestions in 2008, commissioners this week got their first peek at a massive redevelopment proposal. It calls for separating west Pasco into a dozen identifiable districts ranging in size from less than 1,000 people in Aripeka to 44,000 residents in Embassy. Each area will undergo its own community planning to tackle the most pressing problems, but the far-reaching goal is to improve economic development, local infrastructure, transportation, urban design traits and open space.

An action plan includes 153 suggested strategies, 62 of which are deemed critical and in need of immediate attention. Those range from expanded employment counseling/job training, better serving the homeless, creating a residential rental inspection program and finding a way to redevelop the former HCA Community Hospital site in the city of New Port Richey.

It's an aggressive, even exhaustive, attempt to remake west Pasco from aging, suburb sprawl to new urbanism that puts jobs, homes, commerce and recreation in close proximity to one another. Financing will be an immediate concern, though the renewed Penny for Pasco sales tax, federal Brownfield and HUD grants, and state Department of Transportation aid are likely candidates.

The challenge to county commissioners, present and future, is to sustain a vision that won't be diverted by parochialism or the lack of political will when it comes to code enforcement, policing rental properties and requiring private investors to abide by controls on commercial signs, landscaping and other aesthetic requirements. Cooperation among the county, cities of Port Richey and new Port Richey, and the private sector investors is key.

So, look ahead at west Pasco in the 2030s. It could have elevated pedestrian/bicycle trails crossing U.S. 19; a bustling river walk of retailers and restaurants along the Cotee River, more pocket parks in established neighborhoods, spruced up homes protected by aggressive code enforcement, employment centers at the former hospital or on the undeveloped land owned by the Harvey family along Little Road, traffic roundabouts at unsafe intersections and a lifestyle center of private stores and public space at Gulfview Square.

It's a grand plan. The task ahead is to ensure it doesn't get stuck on a shelf and ignored by distracted commissioners.

Comments
Editorial: Handing out gift cards like candy at CareerSource

Editorial: Handing out gift cards like candy at CareerSource

Itís hard to pick the biggest outrage in the financial and ethical swamp that has swallowed Tampa Bayís two primary job placement agencies, CareerSource Pinellas and CareerSource Tampa Bay. Is it the boiler room atmosphere where CareerSource recruite...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18

Family separation crisis is not over

The family-separation crisis that President Donald Trump created is not over. The executive order Trump signed Wednesday purporting to end the routine tearing of children from their undocumented parents stands on uncertain legal ground. U.S. border a...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: State help needed to staff hotlines with veterans helping veterans

Editorial: State help needed to staff hotlines with veterans helping veterans

Veterans can help veterans deal with trauma resulting from military service in a way no one else can. Thatís the theory behind a special hotline set up in the Tampa Bay area that proponents are hoping to take statewide.The expansion would cost some $...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

It turns out the U.S. Supreme Court has a better grasp of the economic realities of the 21st century than Congress or the Florida Legislature. The court ruled Thursday that states can require online retailers to collect sales taxes even if the retail...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

The shocking scenes of immigrant children crying after being taken from their parents at the border exposed a new level of cruelty by the Trump administration, and though the president reversed course Wednesday, Congress needs to end the shameful pra...
Published: 06/21/18
Sessions kickstarts action on marijuana

Sessions kickstarts action on marijuana

Good job, Jeff Sessions! It seems the attorney generalís misguided attempts to revive the unpopular and unjust federal war on marijuana may be having the exact opposite effect ó prompting a new bipartisan effort in Congress to allow states to legaliz...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/21/18
Editorial: A court victory for protecting Floridaís environment

Editorial: A court victory for protecting Floridaís environment

A Tallahassee judge has affirmed the overwhelming intent of Florida voters by ruling that state lawmakers have failed to comply with a constitutional amendment that is supposed to provide a specific pot of money to buy and preserve endangered lands. ...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/20/18
Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Innocent children should not be used as political pawns. That is exactly what the Trump administration is doing by cruelly prying young children away from their parents as these desperate families cross the Mexican border in search of a safer, better...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/19/18

Editorial: ATF should get tougher on gun dealers who violate the law

Gun dealers who break the law by turning a blind eye to federal licensing rules are as dangerous to society as people who have no right to a possess a firearm in the first place. Yet a recent report shows that the federal agency responsible for polic...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/18/18
Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

The new grass-roots effort to put a transportation package before Hillsborough County voters in November faces a tough slog. Voters rejected a similar effort in 2010, and another in 2016 by elected officials never made it from the gate. But the lates...
Published: 06/15/18