For many residents near the planned development known as Summit View II on Dade City’s outskirts, the project represents a betrayal of long-standing rules and promises to keep the rural nature of their community, complete with its rolling hills, heritage trees and bucolic ambiance.
For some city leaders, the development is a way for Dade City to control it’s own destiny, funding much-needed city infrastructure and managing their little piece of the rapdily spreading residential growth across Pasco County.
Those views clashed Tuesday evening, as the Dade City Commission considered four separate actions that could make the residential community a reality after another vote in June. For several hours, commissioners heard from the developer and his experts, city planners and more than a dozen residents from both the city and just outside its limits.
The commission split three to two to give a first approval on annexing the 170-acre parcel, currently owned by the Denlinger family, to make two major changes in the city’s comprehensive plan for future growth and to rezone the property to allow for construction of potentially nearly 500 homes.
Located at the southeast corner of Happy Hill Road and St. Joe Road, Summit View II would be adjacent to Summit View I, which was approved two years ago and is in the early stages of development.
The project comes on the heels of another large 500-unit, 100-acre housing community, Vista Walk, which the council approved several weeks ago. That community, located between St. Joe Road and Blanton Road, and bordered on the west by Ramsey Road, also includes single family and town homes. Nearby residents claim irregularities in the city’s handling of that project and also packed that commission meeting to voice their objections.
The city’s planning board did not recommend either of the projects for approval to the city commissioners. Combined, the two communities would give a significant bump to the municipality’s population. Dade City is currently home to just over 7,000 residents.
Jacob Cremer, the land use attorney representing the applicant, said resident and planning board concerns prompted significant changes from the original plan for Summit View II. Open space has been expanded, lighting has been limited, site density mirrors county zoning, 40-foot-wide lots have been eliminated and an access site on St. Joe Road has been removed.
For many neighbors, that wasn’t enough.
“Please don’t annex this property unless you can be good stewards,” said Mary McKnight, who argued that the site had important natural resources including 61 acres of wetlands.
Margaret Woods argued the property would be “a perfect place for a more upscale product” such as a community with fewer homes and larger lots. That might mean bringing a “different demographic” to housing inventory, she said.
Mary Harrison, who lives on Happy Hill Road, said that development is supposed to fit with the surrounding area but this plan does not. Large trees, scenic views and agricultural areas will be lost. “Please stop trying to turn us into Tampa or Wesley Chapel,” she said. “We’re Dade City.”
She urged the commission to vote no. “Open your eyes and see more than dollar signs,” Harrison said, her voice cracking with emotion. “We’re starting to lose what makes us special.”
City commissioners Normita Woodard and James Shive voted against all four of the actions to move Summit View II forward.
“I’ve never been a person who chases money,” Woodard said, pointing out that when the commission makes that a priority “that is the moment we lose the proud heritage of Dade City.”
Shive said he simply didn’t think the development was the right plan for the property.
City commissioners Knute Nathe, Scott Black and Mayor Camille Hernandez voted in favor of the project. Given that the developer’s representatives said they would seek rezoning for the housing project from Pasco County if they couldn’t get an acceptable approval from the city, Hernandez didn’t want to give up the city’s ability to have its say.
While no project is ever perfect, Hernandez said, “it’s inevitable. It’s going to happen. I want to have a seat at the table.”