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County asks for approval of stricter land use rules

Landowners objected loudly, but county commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to ask the state to approve the strictest regulations in the county's history to preserve the rural character of northeast Pasco.

Joel Tew, a land use attorney speaking for the Pasco Builders Association, called it a "Valentine's Day massacre."

"At its heart, it is a blatant land grab in northeast Pasco," Tew said.

The so-called rural protection standards came to the commission as part of the periodic update of Pasco's comprehensive plan, the long-term blueprint for growth.

If approved by the Florida Department of Community Affairs, the standards will provide much of what conservationists wanted - open space requirements, preservation of rolling hills and scenic roads, and limits on outdoor lighting and new subdivisions.

The most controversial element: If a developer gets a zoning change to build houses on a northeast Pasco tract larger than 100 acres, the houses would be clustered together on half of the property, with the other half remaining open space.

That would prevent developers from carving up the entire property into larger home lots, leaving no open space.

The commissioners themselves had little comment on the move.

"We're good to go" is all Commissioner Ann Hildebrand said.

The state is expected to make a decision on the plan later this year.

In other county business Tuesday:

+ The county approved an application to return the Livestock outdoor concert to Zephyrhills. It is planned for April 28-30.

Garrett Therolf covers Pasco County government. He can be reached at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6232, or in west Pasco at 869-6232. His e-mail address is gtherolf@sptimes.com.

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