ST. LEO — The meeting came to order amid the luxury of the Lake Jovita Golf & Country Club with a putting green visible through the glass doors of the clubhouse and an extensive wine cabinet filling the wall inside.
But the people filling the 120 white folding chairs didn’t come for the ambiance. They came for answers about the proposed North Pasco RV Resort that plans to park as many as 675 recreational vehicles on what is now agricultural land at the northeast corner of Interstate 75 and Lake Iola Road.
Just seven minutes after starting the Sept. 10 community meeting, a requirement of Pasco County’s land development code, it turned raucous.
“You need a microphone,’’ one man barked..
“I don’t have one,’’ said the landowner’s attorney, Barbara Wilhite.
“You need to get one!’’
“Stop yelling at me,’’ she said.
When they weren’t criticizing the acoustics or the meeting format, many in the crowd raised concerns about transportation, water quality, political favoritism and whether an RV resort adhered to the county’s land-use plan that includes special protections against sprawl for rural northeast Pasco.
The proposed resort from Vcare Consultants of Tampa calls for turning 130 acres of former citrus groves into an RV park abutting Moody Lake. It would include a lodge, convenience store, pool, dock and other recreational amenities. And because the resort is considered akin to a hotel, the county’s rural land protections aren’t applicable since they govern residential development only.
Developer Sanjay Amin pledged a cleanup of Moody Lake, which one resident characterized as “a disaster’’ following the widening of I-75 from four to six lanes. But the offer from Amin, who said the North Pasco resort is the fourth recreational vehicle park development he’s been involved with, did little to placate the audience.
Residents said they feared it would be the first of many commercial intrusions into the rural area.
“You’re starting a precedent here,’’ said Lisa Moretti of Iola Woods Trail, “It’s going to snowball.’’
“They’re destroying this county,’’ said Jimmy Lyons of Bayhead Road.
James and Jane Hoster of Port Richey own the vacant 4 acres abutting the north side of the proposed resort. James Hoster predicted that effluent from the RV park’s sewage treatment facility would end up in Moody Lake.
There was plenty of audience grousing about the property’s former owners. Vcare Consultants acquired the property in December for $1.2 million from Ann Oakley Maggard and her husband, Dale. She is the sister of Pasco County Commission Chairman Ron Oakley. Her husband is the brother of state Rep. Randy Maggard, R-Dade City, who formerly sat on the governing board of the Southwest Florida Water Management District.
Commissioner Oakley, through Lake Placid Groves LLC, also owns property nearby. The 230-acre citrus grove, between Johnston and Bayhead roads is west of the proposed RV park. Oakley said in July that the land is for sale, “but nobody’s come up to buy it yet.’’
The loudest guffaws and sarcasm were aimed at Steve Henry of Lincks & Associates, the project’s traffic consultant. He said traffic counts conducted in February showed the area’s rural road network could handle the increase in vehicles traveling to and from the resort.
Residents, however, said the dog-leg turn at Blanton and Lake Iola roads is unsafe and wouldn’t be able to accommodate turns by trucks towing RVs. They said the developers also must account for the hundreds of bicyclists who travel the roads on weekends.
Less than 30 minutes into the planned two-hour meeting, people began trickling out. They didn’t hear Moretti ask Amin to consider an alternative use that would be more welcomed by the community. Another resident told Amin to be prepared for “a hell of a fight.’’
Amin replied calmly, “I’m not going to back down.’’
The proposed rezoning of the land and a change in the county’s comprehensive land plan still must be approved by the appointed Pasco Planning Commission and the elected Pasco County Commission. Those public hearings have not yet been scheduled.