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Agreement to expand corridor for wildlife

The county and developers reached a compromise on the environment Tuesday night with the approval of plans for a new community that will include 84 acres for a wildlife path.

The County Commission voted 4-0 to approve the rezoning of a 383-acre sand mine west of U.S. 41 in Land O'Lakes. Commissioner Pat Mulieri was absent during the meeting at the Historic County Courthouse in Dade City.

Landowner Cone & Graham Inc. proposes selling its tapped-out sand mine west of U.S. 41 to Tampa developer Rigel LLC. Cone & Graham Inc. wants to sell the land for 721 homes.

Cone & Graham's 383 acres, combined with an adjacent 285 acres to the south owned by Taylor Simpson's Five-Mile Ranch, swaddle the bulk of a proposed wildlife corridor.

Without Cone's contribution to the corridor, it could have meant an end to an unbroken greenway (through northern Pinellas, Pasco, Polk and Hernando counties) hospitable to large mammals.

Developers first agreed to donate 31 acres for a wildlife path, but upped the figure to 84 acres as they negotiated with the county and the Southwest Florida Water Management District, said Ben Harrill, attorney for Rigel LLC.

In other business Tuesday night, the commission voted 4-0 to allow Busch Gardens to start composting animal waste at its Animal Outpost, where some 60 exotic animals are kept just west of Dade City. Currently the company trucks waste from the outpost to its compost facility in Tampa.

_ Saundra Amrhein covers Pasco County government. She can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6244, or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6244. Her e-mail address is amrheinsptimes.com.

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