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Neighbors' opposition fails to slow subdivision

One member of the Planning Commission says it is impossible to stop growth in Pasco County.

With the Tampa suburbs poised to breach a largely undeveloped triangle formed by State Road 54, Curley Road and Boyette Road, several Wesley Chapel neighbors fought an unsuccessful delaying action against developers Wednesday afternoon.

Despite complaints the proposed 590-home Chapel Pines subdivision is a recipe for urban sprawl, the Pasco Planning Commission assented to a rezoning application sought by the Byrd Corp. of Clearwater.

Voting with the majority, Planning Commission member Joseph Nicholson said urban sprawl has become a buzz word for "stop growth." But stopping growth is impossible in Pasco, he said. "It's going to occur whether we like it or not," Nicholson said.

With homes going up by the thousands near Bruce B. Downs Boulevard in Wesley Chapel, it has been easy to miss a miniboom beginning along Curley Road.

Chapel Pines is just the latest proposed subdivision. Lykes Development Corp. plans 760 houses and townhomes on 328 acres northwest of Curley and Wells roads and Safety Harbor Capital Corp. wants to build about 200 homes on a tree farm north of Lykes.

"That area is having a lot of development pressure on it," said Sam Steffey, Pasco's growth management director.

But several neighbors who attended the planning meeting in Dade City tried to apply counter-pressure. They complained about school overcrowding, the potential for flooding and traffic congestion on Curley Road.

"I don't want to be flooded out and I don't want to lose the value of my property," neighbor Lilja Taylor said.

Taylor found two Planning Commission allies in Eugenia Fellows and Peter Gottschalk, both regular critics of what they consider overdevelopment in Pasco.

Gottschalk said the housing density of Chapel Pines is incompatible with the less dense development in the neighborhood. Fellows complained developers were hopscotching too far north of existing suburbs.

"To me this is an example of urban sprawl," Fellows told her colleagues. "This is premature."

Gottschalk and Fellows cast the only votes against the rezoning. Later this month, the case is expected to go before the county commissioners, who have the final say on rezonings.

About 10 miles northwest of Wesley Chapel, a request to open a yard waste recycling center was rejected by planners as too intrusive in a neighborhood pegged for residential development.

To accommodate its wood chipping business, Bay Mulch Co. wanted to rezone 17 acres southeast of State Road 52 and Bellamy Brothers Boulevard from agriculture to light industrial.

Hillsborough County developer George Karpay enlisted the services of an attorney, engineer and planner to defeat the proposal. Karpay plans to build a $200-million, 1,599-home subdivision on 667 acres of rolling pasture north of State Road 52.

Attorney Ben Harrill and planner King Helie complained the operation would deter high-quality residential development through the unsightliness of the yard waste, the noise of the wood chippers and the odor of decaying vegetation.

"This is a rural area in transition to a nice residential urban area," Helie said.

Steve Booth, the attorney representing landowner Mark Swartsel, argued the commissioners shouldn't object to the recycling center based on a housing development that may never be built.

"To try to protect future, potential development is not what this board should be engaged in," Booth said.

Planners disagreed with Booth, but only narrowly. The board voted 6-4 against rezoning the land. County commissioners should hear the case later this month.

In other business, the Planning Commission bucked the wishes of New Port Richey condominium owners by voting in favor of an RV repair business on Vorhees Road.

Neighbors at Sunnybrook Condominiums complained the business would be a noisy nuisance. But business owners Dean and Denise Fountain prevailed after planners learned the condominiums already abut an auto wrecking yard.