Unheard voices clamor for change
It's a new year; we need a new way of making land use decisions.
Pasco County commissioners have been grappling with major growth management decisions for the last 20 years. Hundreds of thousands of residential units have been approved — enough to keep construction crews working well into the foreseeable future.
This manifest destiny of grow until you can grow no more may reflect the views and values of the commissioners themselves, but in many instances, it has failed to reflect the values and visions of the residents, the same residents who put their faith and trust in the people they elected into office.
We, who have been trying to work within the system, are beginning to question the process. We believe that the only way for the system to work is for it to change. Possibly the answer is the Florida Hometown Democracy Amendment 4, which will be on the ballot in November. Our commission is scheduled to vote on a resolution opposing Amendment 4 at Tuesday's meeting.
Citrus Ridge, a development near Dade City that won unanimous approval by the commission in August, is a perfect example of how commissioners blatantly disregarded the wishes of those who elected them in favor of a developer, and why the argument that Amendment 4 isn't necessary because we have a representative form of government is dangerously inaccurate.
Despite a unanimous recommendation of denial by the county's planning commission, which listed seven or eight reasons why the development was incompatible, and objections from the city of Dade City, the project was approved with the rationalization that it would generate funds to improve a failing intersection.
In 2005, Pasco County spent $3 million drawing up a comprehensive plan with components to protect the rural quality of northeast Pasco and never got around to writing the ordinances to support the plan.
Having participated in the evaluation and review of the old comprehensive plan, the writing of the new plan, the hearings of the Citrus Ridge application for annexation into Dade City and the process through the county, many of us have invested five years of our lives and thousands of hours at our own expense trying to protect the rural character of northeast Pasco. As citizens concerned about the density of the Citrus Ridge development, we tried to educate ourselves, we made our concerns known to the commissioners, and our position fell on ears that were prejudiced for the developers.
Neighbors and at least 350 citizens requested that the commissioners limit the Citrus Ridge development to two units per acre. The only people who supported a higher density were those who stood to gain from a higher density. However, the Board of County Commissioners voted unanimously to approve 2.7 units per gross acre. This is not a good example of democracy. In fact, there have been way too many developments like Citrus Ridge that have been approved over the objections of the many people whose quality of life was negatively impacted for the benefit of a few.
We, the citizens, think that Hometown Democracy might be the only way the people can get a fair representation.
Barbara Jones, Peggy Woods, Debbie Parks, Tom Parks, Sally Redden, Pat Carver, Dade City
Unruly teens ruin park for everyone
I noticed Pasco County has sent workers to the Lake Lisa Park in Embassy Hills to fix and replace the wood perimeter fence built when the park opened in September 2008.
The reason all these workers are replacing the fence is that 50 percent of all parents in Embassy Hills have no idea what their kids are doing. These kids are destroying property, including the fence surrounding Lake Lisa. I myself have witnessed teens of all ages, both male and female, destroying this fence, vandalizing the trash containers and dumping the trash onto the grass. I have witnessed teens selling and using drugs at the basketball courts in front of younger kids playing on the swings. These teens have harassed and even attacked parents who were there watching their toddlers.
There are numerous reasons why these teens are being so brazen. They feel they are untouchable because of their numbers. People are starting to avoid this park because of these uncontrollable teens. I don't understand why the Sheriff's Office has not been showing these teens that this park does not belong to them.
If going after the teens themselves is not working, then go after the parents. The parents are responsible for raising these kids, and if they are raising them to be thugs and vandals, then it is time to hold them responsible for what their kids are doing.
The park is for everyone in the community to enjoy. This includes the elderly, the working population and, yes, the teens of our community. All we ask is that parents start forcing their children to respect other people's property and respect this park the county built for all to enjoy.
Joe Everhart, Port Richey
Build schools closer to homes
I keep reading about all the trouble at school bus stops and how to fix them. How about this? Spend education money to build schools in neighborhoods where children can walk to school.
It would be much safer and the educational system could save millions of dollars spent on buses. Teachers could be paid more equitable salaries and there would be more money for school supplies.
I worked back in Brooklyn when I was growing up and learning.
Simone R. Gabriele, Port Richey
Toys for Tots was a rousing success
Toys for Tots of East Pasco is pleased to report a total success. Counting all five of our east and central Pasco distribution sites, we provided toys, food, and other essential items for 4,313 children. We ran out of families before we ran out of toys.
I had been worried because our letter carriers' toy drive had been disappointing. On that important day, foul weather worked against us, and the number of toys donated was well below last year's total. We quickly appealed to the community and they overwhelmingly responded. The toy donations for the balance of December climbed.
With so very many folks to thank this year (Women of the Moose, Food for Tots, Rotary and the Marine Corps League, for example) I do wish to commend our highly skilled community captains: Pastor Dave Raley and his team run the Tri-community/Lacoochee distribution site; Sylvia Salazar effectively oversees the Dade City distribution at PHCC; Ken Keith and Dan Conely head the Zephyrhills effort at the Alice Hall Community Center; Anna Fulk and her team efficiently head up the Wesley Chapel Elementary school endeavor; and, Pastor Herb Roshell and his lovely wife, Stephanie, resourcefully lead our fully blessed offering in the Land O'Lakes/Lutz community.
These dedicated and committed community leaders are the heart and soul of our ongoing effort to produce a holly, jolly Christmas for thousands of east and central Pasco children. Truly, they deserve the lion's share of credit for our continual success.
Bob Loring, Toys for Tots of East Pasco