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In Tampa Bay, growth will hit Pasco hardest

Editor: During the months leading up to the primary election, candidates have expressed their views on the rate of growth and the number of residential units currently slated for construction in Pasco County. This is indeed an important issue because it affects so many of the services and resources upon which we depend.

Being a part of the Tampa Bay metropolitan area, Pasco County is feeling the impact of a steadily growing and prosperous business center. The population throughout the Tampa Bay area is expected to grow over the next 10 years as a result of new and continued expansion of business and industry. Pasco will experience the most dramatic change.

The University of Florida Bureau of Economic and Business Research projects

that Pasco County will grow faster than any of the Tampa Bay area counties. Our population is expected to increase by an additional 19 percent over the next 10 years, followed by Hillsborough with an increase of 16 percent. Pinellas County will grow at a much slower rate. If our population grows to this projected level, Pasco County will gain an additional 62,830 new residents and Hillsborough will gain 150,470 new residents by 2010.

As the election season continues to unfold, it is important that the public is given reliable information with which to consider the issue of growth and how it should be managed. For myself, I feel it is important to have accurate figures in forming and expressing my positions as a candidate. I would like to share what I found in my own research:

According to the Pasco County growth management office, 96,530 residential units had been approved for construction by the Board of County Commissioners as of late August. This included "Master Planned Unit Developments" and "Developments of Regional Impact."

Projects still in the approval pipeline, such as Connerton, are not included in this figure. Although the first phase of Connerton (3,800 out of 15,000 planned residential units) has received specific approval by the County Commission, it is still under review by the Florida Department of Community Affairs. Some of the projects included in this count are in various stages of completion.

The Pasco County School Board is working with an estimate of 105,568 planned residential units with 15.3 percent of the units having already been built.

This potential for growth in Pasco's population is somewhat alarming, considering that an average of three new residents could occupy each of the yet-to-be built residential units. But it is important to keep in mind that the rate with which these units are built, sold and occupied will depend on a number of factors. Major residential development currently approved by the county and planned in close proximity to important transportation arteries will be sure bets for completion. But others may go undeveloped or their "build-out" may not reach completion because customer demand could be slowed by changes in the economy.

If the University of Florida projections play out, roughly a quarter of the homes currently approved for construction will actually be sold over the next 10 years.

Based on the number of planned residential units, developers seem to be more optimistic about future demand in the housing market than the UF Bureau of Economic and Business Research. But even if growth occurs in Pasco County at UF's more conservative rate, we must prepare by engaging in a planning process that is well-structured, guided by a coherent vision and responsive to average citizens. We must also keep Hillsborough's rate of growth in mind (plus any growth that will occur in Pinellas County) when addressing the important issues of land use, demand on services and vital resources. Many aspects of the growth simply cannot be addressed within only one county's borders.

Larry McLaughlin, Zephyrhills

Candidate for State

Representative District 61

Non-profit pet organization passes along its love for animals

Editor: I would like to let your readers know of a wonderful organization called PASS, which stands for Pet Aid Service Society. PASS is a non-profit organization here in Port Richey, located in Embassy Plaza, across from the Gulfview Square Mall.

Marj McConkey, the founder of PAWS, has started PASS. All the money generated by its thrift store goes toward helping animals, whether a family dog that was hit by a car and needed surgery the family couldn't afford or an abused or abandoned animal that would die without immediate care. PASS tries to help those who need it.

My husband, Eric, and I live in rural Pasco County where unwanted pets, usually pregnant, are dumped on a regular basis. We take them in and help them the best we can, which is very costly.

Consequently, we ended up with 10 puppies and 22 kittens. We called PASS for help. Marj and her volunteers were a godsend. PASS is subsidizing the cost to spay the dogs and cats. They also have placed the puppies and kittens into loving homes through their puppy and kitty adoption program.

My husband and I own Eric's Moving Service. We donated our services and any items from moving jobs to the thrift store. We also volunteer whenever we can because we are so grateful for its help.

PASS also helps the elderly on fixed incomes with financial assistance for their pets.

I've personally witnessed abused animals that would have died, had PASS not stepped in and got them immediate medical attention. There are too many stories to mention, but some would break your heart.

PASS is in dire need of volunteers, donations, resale items, etc., so any help would be greatly appreciated. If any of your readers would like to help a truly worthy cause, please contact Pet Aid Service Society, 9458 U.S. 19, Embassy Plaza, Port Richey, or call (727) 817-1812.

Susan Steffey