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County on edge of growth explosion

(ran PC edition)

Subdivisions planned for the next decade promise to bring as many as 15,000 new homes each to Wesley Chapel and Land O'Lakes.

Take two semirural communities on the edge of the Tampa metropolitan area, add thousands of new houses and miles of new highways, and what have you got?

What you've got is Land O'Lakes and Wesley Chapel on the cusp of a transformative brick-and-mortar boom.

If we're to believe developers' announcements of the past year, Land O'Lakes and Wesley Chapel will get as many as 15,000 new homes apiece in the next decade.

On highways soon to teem with thousands of new residents _ state roads 54 and 56, the Suncoast Parkway and Bruce B. Downs Boulevard _ shopping centers should sprout like so many palmetto bushes.

Lower property taxes, safer schools and bigger houses for the buck are three of the forces driving the suburbanization of south-central Pasco. Many residents _ 40 percent of the 136,000-person work force countywide _ commute to jobs outside Pasco.

Here are some of the proposed developments that landed on the desks of Pasco County planners in 2000:

Developers envision a slew of housing subdivisions for the 5-mile stretch between U.S. 41 and the soon-to-open Suncoast Parkway: Cordoba, Suncoast Meadows, Suncoast Crossings, LeDantec, Oakstead, Fuentes and Long Lake Ranch. Total number of proposed houses and apartments: about 7,000.

The greatest commercial cluster is proposed for Long Lake Ranch, the 1,100-acre development proposed by Nick and Peter Geraci southwest of U.S. 41 and SR 54. The Geracis plan 2-million square feet of stores. That surpasses even the floor space at Citrus Park Town Center, the mall in northwest Hillsborough County.

Connerton New Town Development is a proposed 15,000-home development that would hug an urban core of stores, offices and schools south of State Road 52. The project, which would take 30 years to build out, received government approval in 2000.

On Collier Parkway, about 1,000 new homes at Plantation Palms and Sable Ridge will round out the existing neighborhoods in the next decade. The widening of Collier from two lane to four lanes began in December. Crews are also widening SR 54 from U.S. 41, past Collier, to Cypress Creek.

Examining its building needs in the face of growing enrollments through 2010, school officials announced the need for one high school, one or two middle schools and three to five elementary schools in the Land O'Lakes/Wesley Chapel area.

Developers, including Lykes Development Corp. and the Byrd Corp., proposed more than 1,500 homes for the west side of Curley Road in Wesley Chapel. Those numbers don't include revised plans for Cannon Ranch that call for 6,700 homes and resort condominiums near the northern end of Curley on SR 52.

Meadow Pointe, the first two phases of which are filling up with about 4,000 homes, announced the construction in 2001 of two more phases containing 4,500 homes.

Saddlebrook Village, approved since the 1980s, revamped plans to include the construction of more than 4,000 homes. The Wyndfields subdivision won approval to build another 1,599 homes east of Meadow Pointe, right next to Meadow Woods, a newly approved 1,000-home golf course community.

Several news restaurants appeared in Wesley Chapel, including an Outback Steak House, an Applebee's and a Remington Steakhouse. The year 2000 saw the construction of two golf courses in Land O'Lakes, the community's first links: Plantation Palms Golf Club on Collier Parkway and the Groves golf course on U.S. 41.