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New housing on record pace

News reports whisper rumors of recession and unemployment inches higher, but houses furiously sprout from the ground in Pasco County.

Pasco issued 2,021 permits for new single-family homes in the first six months of this year, the highest half-year figure in well over a decade.

At the current pace, 4,000 permits could be generated this year, beating the recent record of 3,032 permits in 1999.

At least part of the reason for the run on building permits was county commissioners' Feb. 28 approval of a new $1,694-per-new-home school impact fee.

Builders, who dislike having to tack impact fees onto the price of homes, grabbed as many permits as they could before the new law took effect, said Marvin Rose, who publishes the Rose Residential Reports newsletter for area builders and developers.

"When there's a known or announced increase in impact fees, builders will pull three or four months of permits at one time," Rose said.

But impact fees can't explain all of Pasco's torrid growth, most of which has centered in and around Wesley Chapel and Land O'Lakes.

Rose says closings on new homes have outpaced last year's numbers by 15 percent. Through this April, the latest complete figures available, Pasco closings totaled 935, up from 816 during the first four months of 2000.

The two best-selling subdivisions in terms of closings were Meadow Pointe with 113 and Lexington Oaks with 75. Both are in Wesley Chapel, a growing bedroom community offering a short commute to Tampa.

Next in line are southwest Pasco's Trinity community with 54, Valencia Gardens in Land O'Lakes with 46, west Pasco's Heritage Springs with 37, and Sable Ridge in Land O'Lakes with 33.

"I've been surprised the last three or four years," Rose said. "I wouldn't have predicted we would have three years of double-digit increases in Pasco. But we have."

The future holds much more growth for Pasco, which has ballooned to 344,000 people according to last year's census.

More than 7,000 houses and apartments are on the boards for the 5-mile stretch of State Road 54 between U.S. 41 and the Suncoast Parkway.

Meadow Pointe is promising a 4,500-home expansion southeast of S.R. 54 and Bruce B. Downs Boulevard.

Saddlebrook Village, which developers recently renamed Seven Oaks, promises 4,400 more homes between Bruce B. Downs and Interstate 75 in Wesley Chapel.