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First housing units get initial nod for Central Pasco Employment Village

Last year, proposals for housing drew criticism, but that was before Amazon
The Central Pasco Employment Village, 2,400 acres to the south of State Road 52, is now at the center of public debate over which should come first: businesses that bring jobs, or housing for people needed to work those jobs.
The Central Pasco Employment Village, 2,400 acres to the south of State Road 52, is now at the center of public debate over which should come first: businesses that bring jobs, or housing for people needed to work those jobs. [ Pasco County ]
Published Apr. 22|Updated Apr. 24

NEW PORT RICHEY — A year ago there was sharp debate between a central Pasco landowner ready to begin building new homes on his property and the head of the Pasco Economic Development Council over the wisdom of that decision.

But then came Amazon and an agreement for formal communications among 20 landowners of a 2,400-acre swath of land known as the Central Pasco Employment Village, which runs south of State Road 52 from the Collier Parkway Extension to Bellamy Brothers Boulevard.

This week the Pasco County Planning Commission gave a unanimous nod of support for the rezoning for the first round of housing development on the site. Applicants Running Dog Ranch Inc., S/Morris Keithendale Inc. and Swope 535419, working with Lennar Homes, hope to develop their 493-acre site into 953 free-standing, single-family homes, 119 single-family attached homes and 336 multi-family units, along with 107,000 square feet of commercial space.

County commissioners will consider the rezoning in the coming weeks.

Two major events happened to help move the project along.

The landowners in the employment village have met several times to discuss future development. That is important because when the county established the village in 2010, all property owners were tied together by the same set of rules and shares of the approximately 4,500 residential units that would be allowed across the village properties.

The debate last year came when Pasco Economic Development Council president Bill Cronin argued that housing shouldn’t come before business development and Joel Tew, representing the property owner, took the opposite view. New businesses and industries are reluctant to try to develop sites in areas that are already heavily residential, Cronin said. But Tew said that residential development brings utilities that businesses need.

Then in January, Amazon announced plans for a $150 million, 517,220–square–foot facility within the village boundaries on State Road 52 at Bellamy Brothers Boulevard. The new robotic-sorting facility will provide 500 new jobs.

This week Tew told planning commissioners that employment village property owners met and talked about this first allocation of housing units and there were no objections, which he called “a minor miracle.”

Tew also said that there has been a trading of some of the land uses, moving a larger portion of the job-producing development closer to the Amazon site at the far eastern portion of the employment village where utilities are available.

A formula has also been created to help landowners in the employment village divvy up remaining promised development rights, Tew said. He also noted that his client is actually using only a portion of the multifamily units that the new formula would have given his site, leaving more on the table for other adjacent property owners.

There is also “very high interest” in industrial and other development in the area, Tew said, noting that there are other applications in the works.

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“You have at least two more in the hopper, so this is going to begin taking shape,” he said.

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