Despite widespread talk of a recession, houses are sprouting furiously from the ground in Pasco County.
Pasco issued 2,021 permits for new single-family homes in the first six months of this year. That's the highest half-year figure in well over a decade, and Meadow Pointe continues to lead the county in home sales.
Based on the current pace, the year 2001 could generate 4,000 permits, beating the recent record of 3,032 permits in 1999.
At least part of the reason for the run on building permits was the county commissioners' Feb. 28 approval of a new school impact fee of $1,694 per new home.
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 newsletter Rose Residential Reports 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 April of this year, the latest complete figures available, Pasco closings totaled 935, up from 816 during the first four months in 2000.
The two top best-selling subdivisions in terms of closings were Meadow Pointe with 113 and Lexington Oaks with 75, both in Wesley Chapel.
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 SR 54 and Bruce B. Downs Boulevard.
Saddlebrook Village, which developers recently renamed Seven Oaks, plans another 4,400 homes between Bruce B. Downs and Interstate 75 in Wesley Chapel.