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Citrus wants to avoid Pasco's growing pains

In Tom Pelham's eyes, Pasco County holds a dubious distinction: It is a classic example of what happens when someone lets developers run amok. That's how Pelham, the secretary of Florida's Department of Community Affairs (DCA), talked recently when he took the state's growth management manifesto to Citrus County. Pointing to the need for controlling growth in Citrus, he mentioned Pasco again and again. What he said was not flattering: "In some ways . . . beyond repair."

". . . sad . . ."

"All you have to do is drive over to Pasco County and drive that stretch of U.S. 19 over there."

Citrus residents ready for more control over growth took in the message like a choir listening to a Sunday sermon.

West Pasco conjures up "a mental picture of gridlock," said Helen Spivey, president of Concerned Citizens of Citrus County. "It's an excellent example of what not to do."

Pasco County officials say such descriptions are only half-accurate. In many ways, they say, Pasco is an example of planning achievements, not failures.

"It used to be in the late '70s and early '80s, you were addressing existing deficiencies and the crisis of the moment and you did not have a chance to look to the future," County Attorney Ben Harrill said.

But years of work and millions of dollars later, that has changed.

"I can remember when we probably had one of the worst utility systems in the state," said county management and budget director Michael Nurrenbrock. "Now we're the system that (the state Department of Environmental Regulation) points to when they want an example of a system that went from worst to first."