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Here's why Crystal Lagoon didn't open when promised

Pasco County shut down construction at the Crystal Lagoon nine days before its planned opening after a fire inspector discovered 11 buildings and eight cabanas did not have appropriate building permits. Metro Development Group unveiled the nation's first  Crystal Lagoon in January ribbon-cutting. The 7.5 acres of crystal clear water is located in the Epperson development in Wesley Chapel. [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times file]
Pasco County shut down construction at the Crystal Lagoon nine days before its planned opening after a fire inspector discovered 11 buildings and eight cabanas did not have appropriate building permits. Metro Development Group unveiled the nation's first Crystal Lagoon in January ribbon-cutting. The 7.5 acres of crystal clear water is located in the Epperson development in Wesley Chapel. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times file]
Published May 30, 2018

WESLEY CHAPEL – On April 24, the Pasco County Commission approved the Epperson Club's request to sell alcoholic beverages in the swim-up bar alongside the nation's first Crystal Lagoon in Metro Development Group's 2,000-home Epperson neighborhood.

But what the county didn't approve were the actual building permits for the bar. Nor the surf shop, restrooms, tiki huts and other structures nearing completion.

That's because nobody thought to apply for the permits to construct 11 buildings and eight cabanas for the high-profile project along the 7.5-acre Crystal Lagoon. After a Pasco County fire inspector discovered the oversight May 10, the county shut down construction, pulling the plug on the lagoon's planned May 19 opening.

"Of course we want the development to proceed and be prosperous. It's good for the county, but we have to ensure the individuals using that area are safe,'' said Anthony Mastracchio, Pasco's deputy building official.

The amenities appear on the county-approved site plan, said Greg Singleton, president of Metro Development Group. And the property was host to two public events in April — a grand-opening celebration featuring Olympian Michael Phelps and the Pasco Economic Development Council's annual fund-raising networking party.

"It wasn't like we secretly built stuff in the middle of the night,'' said Singleton.

Nonetheless, Metro Development Group was responsible for obtaining the appropriate permits, Mastracchio said.

The construction escaped county attention because Metro used private, third-party inspectors to oversee the work, as state law allows. That meant county inspectors were never on site. Private building officials, however, are prohibited from conducting fire inspections, which prompted the May 10 visit by the county fire inspector.

Metro Development Group has since applied for its permits and Pasco County began processing the applications Tuesday, beginning a 10-day review. The company has not set a new date for the Crystal Lagoon's first day of operation.

"It will be weeks, not months as soon as we have the permits,'' said Singleton.

He said approximately 175 homes in the development are occupied and "another couple hundred'' home sites are under contract or in various stages of construction.

The Crystal Lagoon, a man-made lake that uses trademark technology to maintain clear, clean water, is the centerpiece amenity in the Epperson development. Metro Development Group also is building Crystal Lagoons at its projects at Southshore Bay in southern Hillsborough and at Mirada, north of Epperson in Pasco County.

Contact C.T. Bowen at ctbowen@tampabay.com or (813) 435-7306. Follow @CTBowen2

RELATED: Crystal Lagoon to open in spring.

RELATED: Crystal Lagoon holds ribbon cutting.

RELATED: Michael Phelps to headline grand opening.

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