DADE CITY — More than a dozen years in the planning, the massive project planned for southern Pasco County known as Two Rivers this week won zoning approval, paving the way for 6,400 new residential units along with sites for industry, retail, schools and a district park.
Pasco County commissioners voted unanimously to rezone 3,405 acres north of the Hillsborough County line, sandwiched between Morris Bridge Road and U.S. 301.
The applicant is the Hickory Hills Land Company. The two owners are Eisenhower Properties, which will handle most of the residential development, and the Thomas family, which will control most of the non-residential elements, attorney Clarke Hobby explained to commissioners.
For years, the county has been working with development interests on the project including reaching a bargain that helped pay for part of the State Road 56 construction, $26 million of which will be returned to state coffers as the project is developed, Hobby said.
“There has been a lot of planning work that has gone into this project over really 13 to 14 years,” he said. “It reflects a lot of thought and effort on the part of your staff, the School Board and particularly (county) Natural Resources and the county attorney’s office. We believe this project has been done the right way.”
Included in the plan is a large site that will be used for a new high school, middle school and elementary school on the north side of State Road 56. Adjacent to that is an 80-acre district park, a library site that could be shared with the schools, a public safety parcel for law enforcement or fire rescue use, and a plan for pedestrian trails throughout the community.
Hobby said one of the most important aspects of the development was its true “mixed use” nature which includes a large property held back at Morris Bridge Road and U.S. 301 for 2.6-million square feet of job-generating retail, office and industrial properties.
“So this project has been done correctly from the get-go, so we’re not shortchanging it,” Hobby said. “We’re going to be creating a lot of jobs along the way in addition to creating a great overall community.”
Only a few nearby residents spoke about the proposed development, mostly with concerns about how it would impact their existing neighborhoods and roads, as well as stormwater control questions from a property owner on the Hillsborough County side where the same developers are working on a connected companion project.
Pasco County Commissioner Kathryn Starkey said she was concerned about how the school complex north of State Road 56 was going to impact traffic on the road.
Hobby and his co-counsel on the project, Joel Tew, explained that current residential streets would not be accessed by the new development and the planning for the schools and district park will come later.
The school district and county workers share concerns about making that access work and avoiding backups on State Road 56, said David Goldstein, chief assistant county attorney. He said the plan under discussion would have vehicles coming and going to the schools stacking on park property, not on the highway.
No timetables for when work might begin were discussed.