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Pasco’s moratorium on apartments extended another six months

County planners need more time to complete an inventory of already-approved apartment projects.
Shonda Belton, 45, left, walks with a friend, who declined to be identified, near the Altis Grand at The Preserve apartments Wednesday, April 14, 2021 in Odessa. A Pasco County officials discussion turned into a larger philosophical argument recently about how much is too much multifamily development, and whether previous commissions made the right land use decisions.
Shonda Belton, 45, left, walks with a friend, who declined to be identified, near the Altis Grand at The Preserve apartments Wednesday, April 14, 2021 in Odessa. A Pasco County officials discussion turned into a larger philosophical argument recently about how much is too much multifamily development, and whether previous commissions made the right land use decisions. [ CHRIS URSO | Times ]
Published Sep. 28

NEW PORT RICHEY — Determining just how many apartment units Pasco County has approved for the Wesley Chapel area has turned out to be more time consuming that originally thought.

Because of that, Pasco county commissioners on Tuesday unanimously approved a six-month extension of their moratorium on new land-use change applications for multi-family projects. The moratorium is now set to expire on April 1 2022.

After multiple discussions during land use hearings over several months about how many apartments were enough for the fast-growing Wesley Chapel area, the commission in May set a six-month halt to accepting new applications for conditional use permits, rezonings and comprehensive plan amendments for such uses.

The extension was welcomed by County Commissioner Mike Moore, who has spearheaded the temporary halt. Wesley Chapel is in his district.

“I am glad Pasco County staff is taking the time to make sure information is complete and accurate,” Moore told the Tampa Bay Times. “It is important we consider not only what is best for our community today, we also need to look at 10 and 20 years down the road.”

The original moratorium came after a number of land use changes stirred up residents in the area who were unhappy with growing traffic issues. Others complained about crowded schools and vanishing green spaces, changes that made them feel that their reasons for picking Pasco as their home to get away from the congestion to the south were eroding.

Moore shared their concerns but has also been focused on keeping enough land available for other types of development. Long considered a bedroom community for Tampa, the county has worked to encourage land development that creates businesses and industries to provide employment opportunities locally.

“We cannot lose valuable job-creating sites on our major corridors to projects that have little to no positive economic impact for our citizens.” Moore said.

Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco has supported the moratorium. He has been in favor of having a law enforcement perspective included in future land use decisions, seeing each new development as another additional community requiring a law enforcement presence.

Commissioner Christina Fitzpatrick suggested that the county might consider an update in three more months rather than waiting six months “so we can move forward.”

Moore said that wouldn’t work, because “staff is slammed with all of the projects coming forward” and it would delay other developments to shift all the attention of the planning department just to the inventory. County administrator Dan Biles said it would be difficult to shorten the timeline on the analysis.

The moratorium does not include the whole county. Some portions of Pasco, including including much of the west side of the county, are areas where officials hope to see more multi-family development in the future.

The boundaries of the moratorium are the zone south of State Road 52, north of State Road 54, east of U.S. 41 and west of the line that defines the commission districts between Moore and County Commission Chairman Ron Oakley.