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County decries parkway demand

Hillsborough offers to help pay for a cul de sac, but only if Pasco agrees not to widen Willow Bend. A Pasco official calls that "folly."

Pasco County commissioners want to help the cluster of Lutz homes fronting County Line Road by diverting that stretch of road and creating a cul de sac. Really, they do.

But not if it means promising Hillsborough County not to widen nearby Willow Bend Parkway from two lanes to four, currently scheduled in 2010.

"In my opinion it would be folly to stop the four-laning of this road when we know it's a hot spot for growth," Commissioner Ann Hildebrand said Tuesday.

"I think that would be very shortsighted on our part."

From an engineering viewpoint, the two road projects have little relationship. The Willow Bend project is meant to handle growing east-west traffic in Land O'Lakes. The cul de sac is part of a plan to straighten out an intersection where Collier Parkway and County Line are misaligned by about 50 feet.

But in each case, homes in one county will be affected by a road change just across the county line.

At the Livingston intersection, the Pasco residents want the realigned road to bypass their houses. They say they fear for the safety of their families with so many cars speeding past. At the extension of Willow Bend Parkway, the Hillsborough residents worry how close the new road will come to their houses.

Now, Hillsborough is offering to pay half the costs of creating the cul de sac, estimated at $1-million if a nearby property owner donates the right of way for the road to bypass the neighborhood. But that's only if Pasco drops its plans to widen Willow Bend.

Pasco originally planned to bring the parkway directly into the Hillsborough neighborhood. But at Hillsborough's request, Pasco bought extra right of way to move the parkway 50 feet to the north. Now, the first two lanes are being built on the northern side of that alignment, leaving as much as 100 feet between the road and houses.

But at the urging of Hillsborough residents, their County Commission agreed to ask Pasco to abandon the widening.

Roland Hamel, who lives in one of the seven homes on the Pasco side of County Line Road, just wants both sides to hurry up and move County Line Road away from his house.

"It's past time. It's past due. Something has got to be done here," Hamel told county commissioners on Tuesday. After the meeting, he told the Times that Pasco County was at fault for allowing those homes to be built on County Line Road in the first place.

At County Commission Chairman Pat Mulieri's suggestion, county commissioners decided to send Hillsborough county commissioners a letter saying Pasco gladly accepts Hillsborough's offer to kick in $500,000 for the road improvements, but could agree neither to the Willow Bend condition nor to erecting a traffic light at Willow Bend and French Lane. Hillsborough wants Pasco to pay for a light there should that intersection meet the state guidelines for traffic lights.

But Mulieri still wants something done. She's even offered to meet personally with Hillsborough County Commission Chairman Pat Frank.

And she wants something done before there's a tragedy in that neighborhood.

"That's a terrible situation, and there's going to be a fatality," Mulieri said.

In other action Tuesday, county commissioners tentatively set the property tax rate for next fiscal year at 9.616 mills. A mill is $1 for every $1,000 of taxable value. Commissioners said they plan to trim that rate before they approve the final budget on Sept. 26.

_ Alisa Ulferts covers Pasco County government. She can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6244 or (800) 333-7505, ext. 6244. Her e-mail address is ulfertssptimes.com.

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