Advertisement
  1. News
  2. /
  3. Pasco

Pasco allows new development feared by town of St. Leo

Town officials say they don’t want to become like Clermont.
The Grande Oaks development will be just south of this sign, which sits on the eastern boundary of the town of St. Leo on State Road 52. [Tampa Bay Times]
The Grande Oaks development will be just south of this sign, which sits on the eastern boundary of the town of St. Leo on State Road 52. [Tampa Bay Times]
Published Nov. 11, 2019
Updated Nov. 11, 2019

DADE CITY — There is nothing grand about Grande Oaks, according to St. Leo town officials.

Or is there?

"We are proud of this plan,'' lawyer Barbara Wilhite said about the development proposal more than four years in the making.

The dichotomy of opinions came last week before the Pasco County Commission in Dade City.

Wilhite represents the Iafrate family which wants to turn 175 acres of rolling pasture into Grande Oakes, a development of 600 homes and 400,000-square-feet of commercial activity immediately east of the St. Leo town boundary. The proposed stores and offices are to be clustered in a town center, a quarter-mile south of the intersection of State Road 52 and Prospect Road.

The vicinity is ripe for growth because of the looming multi-lane construction and rerouting of State Road 52, directly through the Iafrete property, connecting to Clinton Avenue in Dade City.

The Pasco County Commission approved the rezoning for the proposed Grande Oaks project on Nov. 5. [Tampa Bay Times]

At one time, the Iafrates considered annexing the land into the town, a strategy that was dropped a half-dozen years ago as the town dealt with the separate issue of contraction by the Lake Jovita Golf and Country Club.

Ironically, county officials expressed concern at the time about the Iafrates’ push for annexation into the town, arguing that St. Leo didn’t have the wherewithal to provide adequate planning, infrastructure and services for the development.

The concern now comes from the town about scenic vistas, topography and intensive development failing to account for the rolling hills of east Pasco.

In a twist, town officials last week did not oppose amending the county comprehensive land plan to allow the development. It signaled they welcomed development, if done correctly.

Their objections, instead, centered on rezoning the agricultural land. They contend the lack of visual protections for neighboring property owners violated the comprehensive plan that the commission had just amended.

"That’s why we are opposing this rezoning. We don’t think the transitions are appropriate or adequate,'' said Town Attorney Patricia Petruff.

The county should require the property owner to provide better transitions between rural St. Leo and the planned development, including larger buffers and enhanced landscaping, she said.

Wilhite and the project’s land planner, Matt Armstrong of Stantec, said the development would be less dense than what is allowed in the Village of Pasadena Hills, the largely undeveloped 22,000-acre planning district south and east of the Iafrate land.

The Grande Oaks project would include larger-than-required buffers that will be deeded as a homeowners’ association parcel. And Armstrong said that existing mature oak and pine trees would provide a visual screen.

Still, Petroff repeated the same fears town officials offered during a May public hearing before the appointed Pasco Planning Commission — that the development could make St. Leo resemble Clermont in Lake County where hilltop citrus groves gave way to homes and commercial development along U.S. Highway 27 and State Road 50.

''It just looks like little Chiclets on a hill because every piece of vegetation has been taken down'' and replaced by housing, said Petroff.

Commissioners, however, weren’t convinced and voted 4-0, with Commissioner Mike Wells absent, to approve the rezoning. Commissioner Mike Moore said the town should have completed the annexation if it wanted to control growth on the property. And Commissioner Kathryn Starkey said the SaintLeo University campus meant intensive development already exists within the town.

"We’ve been consistent with our opposition,'' St. Leo Mayor Richard Christmas said afterward, "and they’ve been pretty consistent with railroading the opposition.''

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Tampa Premium Outlets, 2300 Grand Cypress Drive. The area’s newest outlet is touting the shop tax free weekend and extra savings on top of already reduced prices.
    Deputies are searching for a suspect. There is no public safety threat.
  2. social card for breaking news in crime, for web only
    The driver lost control and crashed into an overpass wall.
  3. Mike Bishop joins Pasco EDC staff. [Pasco EDC]
    News and notes on Pasco businesses
  4. Former state senator John Legg has not ruled out a run for Pasco County schools superintendent. The district is the nation's largest to elect its chief executive.
    Short answer: Maybe.
  5. But the competition isn’t who many people expected it to be.
  6. Delta Air Lines said Friday it will launch five new round-trip routes a day between Tampa and Miami starting May 4. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File) [MARK LENNIHAN  |  AP]
    Delta says the daily nonstop Miami service will create new connections for Tampa travelers to fly to Latin America and other international destinations.
  7. Chris Card, chief of community-based care for Eckerd Connects. His agency is now running the two biggest child welfare jurisdictions in Florida. [Tampa Bay Times]
    They are spending more time outside a permanent home as the county struggles to deal with an increase in removals.
  8. Two babirusa pigs are shown at Lowry Park Zoo in this photo from 1995. A Tampa Bay couple is accused of distributing remnants from exotic animal species, including a babirusa skill. [Tampa Bay Times]
    Novita Indah and Larry Malugin sold more than 3,000 items made from the animals over a period of more than five years, federal officials said.
  9. Ernest Blake Crownover, 19, a lacrosse player at Saint Leo University, was killed in a car crash in Pasco County. [Saint Leo University]
    Troopers identified the teen who was killed as Ernest Blake Crownover, 19.
  10. The Pasco County School District's high school graduation rate rose to 88.3 percent in 2019, surpassing the district's goal of getting to 85 percent by 2020. [Times]
    Cypress Creek had the highest percentage among district schools, while Hudson High had the lowest.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement