The end of December and the end of the year are rapidly approaching, but as a reminder of the things that occurred over the past 12 months, we present the Pasco County 2014 month-at-a-glance calendar:
Rewarding bad behavior: Pasco County turned a blind eye to its partner's tax delinquencies after the Tampa Bay Times revealed that SunWest Acquisition, the owner of land earmarked for the proposed SunWest Harbourtowne waterfront resort, and the county's partner on a planned channel dredge in Aripeka, hadn't paid its county property tax bills since 2010. Commissioner Jack Mariano said he had no problem with the company being $53,000 in arrears because the county had recouped the money through tax certificate sales. Incidentally, the company and its owner, Gary Grubbs, bundled $1,500 in contributions to Mariano's 2012 re-election campaign....
NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco County doesn't start collecting its renewed Penny for Pasco sales tax until Jan. 1, but transportation planners already are looking 10 years ahead to determine if more small change can return big dividends.
The plan — theoretical at this point — is to cease paying for road improvements with Penny for Pasco after 2024 and to seek a separate 1-cent-on-the-dollar sales tax exclusively for transportation, including transit....
James Talton, meet Jon Lester.
Lester, the former pitching ace of the Boston Red Sox, turned down that team's low-ball bid last year, got traded and ended up enriching himself substantially with a reported $155 million, six-year contract from the Chicago Cubs, more than double the initial offer from the Red Sox.
Talton, owner of Blue Marble Strategic of Tampa, doesn't have Lester's cut fastball, but he did just throw a mean curve. He also tried a different tactic from Lester. He grabbed the early deal and then tried to get better terms later. The success of that strategy remains to be seen....
12/17/14 Local Government
NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco County has an identity crisis. It wants to promote sports tourism as an economic engine, but it spends too much time worrying about what it wants instead of taking advantage of what it already has.
That is the opinion of Dev Pathik, founder and CEO of Sports Facilities Advisory of Clearwater, who suggests that the county:
• Hire a full-time sports commissioner or outside company to develop and manage events....
Greener pastures shouldn't be accompanied by brown fields.
That's the thinking of Jimmy Lyons, a 58-year-old retired insurance executive. It's been more than 18 years since Lyons grabbed his homestead in God's Country. He's got a home built in 1930 and a second building where he can bunk amid the live oak trees and abutting citrus groves on nearly 5 acres of rural living off Bayhead Road. The spread has a Dade City mailing address, but, more precisely, his property is in the northern tier of Pasco ranch land, just a healthy stone's throw from the Hernando County line....
12/08/14 Public Safety
WESLEY CHAPEL — Pasco Commissioner Mike Moore wants to make it more difficult for registered sex offenders to live in Pasco County.
Moore announced Monday he would seek a local ordinance prohibiting convicted sex offenders from living within 2,500 feet of schools, school bus stops, playgrounds, day care centers, libraries, nursing homes or assisted living facilities. State law now sets that distance at 1,000 feet and applies it only to schools, playgrounds and day care centers....
12/05/14 Local Government
WESLEY CHAPEL — The developer of a proposed large-scale baseball complex here missed its deadline Friday to prove to Pasco County it has the financial wherewithal to partner on the multimillion-dollar sports tourism project.
Less than three weeks ago, the Pasco County Commission gave James Talton, owner of Blue Marble Strategic LLC, and his partner, former major-league All-Star Gary Sheffield, until 5 p.m. Friday to arrange $23 million in financing acceptable to the county. It was the second extension granted to the deal, first approved in January, that called for Pasco County to contribute $11 million toward the public-private project....
Scott and Carol Fisher have their home and a lawn maintenance company in Lutz, and a 35-year-old mobile home on property off Old Pasco Road in Wesley Chapel. The land is home to a green barn, a shed, horses, dogs, pigs and a cat stretched out on the seat of a tractor.
It is a tree-lined 5.4 acres in what can be described as the middle of nowhere. At least for now.
Cows dot the pasture across the road, but the closest sign of a neighbor to the north is a placard informing the public that the Pasco County School District plans to build a high school there....
12/02/14 Local Government
NEW PORT RICHEY — This week, Pasco County commissioners set one of their legislative priorities for the coming year in Tallahassee: Enhance the local quality of life by seeking equitable distribution of new state land conservation dollars authorized by voters in November.
Less than three hours later, a commission majority declined that thinking in approving a request to reclassify 112 acres of conservation land for agriculture use. The proposed change, included as an amendment to the county's comprehensive land use plan, was a precursor to the Southwest Florida Water Management District putting the property on the market....
Head south into the Long Lake Ranch development from State Road 54, past the advertisements for home builders and the big arrow pointing toward "New Homes,'' and the yellow, diamond-shaped road signs are unmistakable.
But not for long.
The road less traveled, at least for now, is Sunlake Boulevard. It's four lanes with a posted speed limit of 45 mph in Pasco County. But access ends at a "no trespassing'' sign, with heavy construction equipment blocking motorists' progress not far from SR 54. On the Hillsborough side of Lutz, the road confronts more than dirt mounds and orange barrels as roadblocks. It has yet to gain public acceptance from residents worried about increased traffic, crime, speeding and litter from their Pasco County neighbors....
Just a month after voters in two neighboring counties rejected 1-cent sales tax increases for transit and roads, Pasco commissioners and elected city leaders will be asked to consider a long-term transportation plan that includes $1.6 billion from a similar sales tax.
But the proposal may face a bumpy road.
"That's news to me,'' said County Commission Chairman Ted Schrader. "We just raised the gas tax, we're talking about an MSTU (property tax district) for parks and recreation and possibly libraries. For us to have a conversation about raising the sales tax when we just renewed the Penny for Pasco? This commissioner will not be warmly receiving the idea of raising the sales tax.''...
Pasco County's economic development philosophy will continue to exclude protectionism.
County commissioners, including two who hadn't yet been sworn into office, last week nixed the idea of a local-preference ordinance that could potentially steer more government spending toward Pasco companies while adding greater expense to the public.
This notion has been kicked around in one form or another for five years, ever since Commissioner Jack Mariano shared a proposal from Hillsborough County to create a regional version of a local-preference ordinance. Mariano liked the idea then, saying it would be beneficial to Pasco....
11/20/14 Economic Development
WESLEY CHAPEL — Pasco Economic Development Council president John Hagen calls it a gift — a treasure of such virtue that it carries with it a moral obligation to ensure better economic opportunities and quality of life for local residents.
The gift is the voter-authorized renewal of the Penny for Pasco sales tax, collection of which begins Jan. 1 for the next 10 years. Approved in November 2012, the tax will aid schools, roads, land preservation and public safety, and also provide $45 million over the next decade for economic development....
11/18/14 Local Government
DADE CITY — Pasco County is allowing the developer of a proposed baseball complex in Wesley Chapel to go extra innings in search of acceptable financing.
Pasco commissioners on Tuesday gave James Talton and former major-leaguer Gary Sheffield, the principals behind Pasco Sports LLC, until early next year to cement their financing for a sports tourism project planned for public land just north of the Shops at Wiregrass mall....
One of the ill-defined themes of the just-concluded County Commission election season was a mantra that Pasco County government needs to be more business friendly.
Candidates said it a lot, though pinning down people on naming a specific policy they would change often led to ambiguous answers.
Whatever. A sound bite is a sound bite.
Now, consider the actions of the Pasco County Commission last week in the final meeting for retiring Commissioner Pat Mulieri and for the electoral-defeated Henry Wilson. They were part of a unanimous commission that rezoned 551 acres along Shady Hills Road, about a mile north of State Road 52, from farmland to a designation allowing a mixed-use development....