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Commission speaks about fireworks, cars

(ran North, South editions)

A boom isn't always a good thing. Just look at the explosion of fireworks in some neighborhoods, or the explosion of new car dealerships planned along State Road 54 in Wesley Chapel.

Both have sparked quality of life concerns for neighbors, so the County Commission agreed Tuesday to propose new ordinances defusing those concerns.

Commissioners told the county attorney to draft an ordinance that would ban fireworks in densely populated residential areas, while still allowing them in rural areas and in professional displays.

Another proposed ordinance would aim to make car dealerships more palatable to neighbors by limiting their outdoor lighting, banning their outdoor speaker systems and restricting their proximity to homes.

In both cases, the ordinances would go through a couple of public hearings before commissioners vote on them.

Commissioners called for a fireworks ordinance Tuesday after hearing from Elly Doff, a New Port Richey retiree who complained that some of her neighbors shoot off fireworks for days at a time, sometimes aiming for her home.

"It creates bad feelings between neighbors who are otherwise friendly to each other," Doff said.

Under state law, people can buy fireworks only if they sign an affidavit swearing the explosives are for agricultural uses, such as shooing away birds. But Commissioner Steve Simon said most people sign the forms fraudulently, as they plan to use the fireworks for fun.

"It's not a good thing," Simon said at the meeting in the West Pasco Government Center. "It's not fair. It's not right."

He suggested fireworks be banned in certain residential areas where homes are close together. The ban would not affect areas within the city limits of Port Richey, New Port Richey, Dade City or Zephyrhills, as those cities set their own rules.

The proposed car dealership ordinance grew out of concerns raised by Wesley Chapel residents about the spate of car lots proposed along State Road 54. The proposed ordinance would affect some of those proposed dealerships, unless the businesses already had their plans approved, County Attorney Robert Sumner said.

"In that case, we're going to be very limited in terms of things we can do," Sumner said.

In other news Tuesday:

+ Adding patriotic decor. At the request of local GOP leader Bill Bunting, commissioners agreed to place American flags inside the public meeting rooms at county libraries. He also asked that signs reading, "In God We Trust," be added to the walls.

The county has flags and signs for a couple of the libraries, County Administrator John Gallagher said. For the other buildings, "We'll get with Mr. Bunting to see if his group can help provide the flags," Gallagher said.

+ Housing grants on the rise. To help more low- and moderate-income families buy their own homes, commissioners agreed to offer larger no-interest loans to qualifying families. The dollars help cover the down payment or other costs.

For a family of four making less than $61,440, for example, the maximum loan is increasing from $10,000 to $21,000 for an existing home, and from $14,000 to $25,000 for a new one.

+ Flooding fixes approved. Commissioners voted to spend $325,000 on several minor drainage improvements. The projects include: adding a pipe in the Briarwoods neighborhood in northwest Pasco; clearing ditches and adding culverts in the Sierra Pines neighborhood in Lutz; and elevating parts of Denton Avenue and Kitten Trail, both in Hudson.

Faced with a slate of other drainage projects that could cost millions of dollars, commissioners agreed to update a study that looks at ways to raise money by possibly creating some kind a stormwater taxing district.

"Unless we step forward to find what the solutions are, we're not serving our people," Commissioner Jack Mariano said.

Bridget Hall Grumet 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