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Former Pasco horse ranch targeted for commerce park

The land on State Road 54 once was home to the 1985 Kentucky Derby winner.

LUTZ — The one-time home of 1985 Kentucky Derby winner Spend A Buck could become known as “Make a Buck” as an 83-acre pasture on State Road 54 gallops toward a future as a commerce park.

The Hayman-Fuemtes Farm Land Trust is seeking a zoning change for its ranch just east of Bexley Village Drive to allow for up to 1.6 million square feet of industrial and business uses, plus 500 hotel rooms, 450 townhouses and ancillary commercial and retail space.

The Pasco Planning Commission approved the change to a so-called employment center on Feb. 6. It still must pass muster with the Pasco County Commission.

"We’re really not sure what’s next, but you see what’s around it, and it’s time to get something done,'' said Larry Fuentes. His father, Elliot Fuentes, and uncle, Solly Hayman, founded the horse ranch in 1958.

Related: Elliott Fuentes, thoroughbred racehorse breeder, dies at age 86

The land fronts on the north side of the rapidly developing SR 54 corridor. It is snuggled between the Bexley by Newland Communities development and the recently built Mystic Pointe Apartments and is less than a half-mile east of the Suncoast Parkway interchange. At one time, the family’s property totaled 400 acres, but a previous private sale and an eminent-domain taking by the state Department of Transportation shrunk the farm to its current size.

Related: Encompass Health to bring 179 jobs to Pasco

Already, there is an interested party. Representatives from Bowman Consulting Group of Melbourne and Ryan Companies have filed preliminary plans for a warehouse/distribution center on the southeast corner of Bexley Village Drive and Mentmore Boulevard.

Larry Fuentes, an attorney, said he could not comment because of a non-disclosure agreement. Ryan Companies is based in Minneapolis and also is working on the first commercial and office project in the Epperson development in Wesley Chapel. Its other Tampa Bay area projects have included a 57,000-square-foot medical office building in Brandon and Class A office buildings in Tampa and Lithia, according to the company’s website.

“Ryan Companies is looking forward to developing the property, and we are excited about the prospects. While we have no immediate plans, we believe Pasco County is a great place to bring in new businesses that can support its economic initiatives,” Doug Dieck, president of Ryan Companies, Southeast region, said in a statement to the Tampa Bay Times.

Related: Epperson to add retailing

An office or industrial park wasn’t the first plan for the Hayman-Fuentes parcel. The family initially proposed developing approximately 200 homes on the site as far back as 2001. The county approved a rezoning in 2004 to allow 183 single-family homes and 167,000 square fee of professional offices.

Just two years later, however, the county had another idea. As part of the 2006 update to its long-term land-use plan, the county designated the property as an employment center, allowing corporate business parks, targeted industries and high-density residential uses.

The current rezoning request changes the land use from a primarily residential district to the employment center.

Larry Fuentes’ sons, Steven and Jeffrey, currently grow hay and raise about 30 head of cattle on the property. But its primary use over the years has been as a horse farm. Elliott Funtes, who died in 2015 at the age of 86, was a nationally recognized thoroughbred breeder and was instrumental in developing a young colt named Spend A Buck. The horse won the 1985 Kentucky Derby and $4.3 million in career purse earnings.