A new specialty hospital for Pasco County is in the works as part of a new development east of Interstate 75 that will also include medical offices, retail and a variety of multifamily residences.
The Wildcat-Bailes development is one of several that is located in a special planning zone called “connected cities” that has been moving through the review process in recent months. This piece is located on 176 acres and recently a new developer stepped into the project with plans for the specialty hospital, Clarke Hobby, the developer’s representative, told planning commissioners earlier this month.
Hobby said an announcement will come soon with more details on the 356,000-square-foot hospital, which will be one of only two of its kind in the region.
“Everybody will be very excited about the opportunity,” he said. The rest of the project will include 1,275 multifamily residences, 155,000 square feet of retail, 250,000 square feet of medical office space and 250 hotel rooms.
Because of the unique nature of the connected city zone, Hobby said that the multifamily residences planned there will not be apartments, but rather townhomes and duplexes. The already approved portions of the overall connected city zone, which includes developments such as Mirada and Epperson, have already used up all of the single-family home entitlements, so none are planned in the newer projects, officials said.
Hobby said that part of the special zoning was designed to provide higher-density housing with short commutes in nearby job centers. The road system is coordinated throughout the district, he said.
The connected city planning designation was given to an area in central and eastern Pasco County bordered by Interstate 75, Curley and Overpass roads and State Road 52. The state-authorized pilot program was designed for developments promoting innovation through job creation, alternative transportation, limiting sprawl or protecting the environment.
The proponents specifically cite the planned availability of ultra-fast internet and related technology to spur employment opportunities.
But nearby neighbors were not sold on the idea of dense development to their currently rural neighborhoods in the coming years.
Tonya Riddlesworth, a resident of McKendree Road, wrote a letter to the county detailing numerous concerns, including straining nearby schools and roadways. She said the residents on her road “are seriously concerned about the safety of our children with the increased traffic.”
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Dozens of residents signed petitions echoing concerns about the development harming the rural character of the area.
Jim Marinari, a resident of the area, was also worried about the density proposed. He suggested that the northern parcel of the development remain untouched “in memory of open space.”
There were also concerns about the helicopter landing pad planned at the new hospital. Hobby said that helicopters have been used in the area for years and the new hospital will only have limited flights.
The Planning Commission voted to recommend that the County Commission approve the project. The board also recommended that the commission approve another connected city project. That project, the Kenton CC planned development, would include 800 additional multifamily residences and 106,000 square feet of what is likely to be office or retail, Hobby said.
Residents voiced the same concerns about density of the 150-acre Kenton site. Several had specific concerns about worsening ongoing flooding on their property.
County commissioners also gave final approval this week for another connected cities project, the Abbey Crossing project on 245 acres on the south side of State Road 52 at McKendree Road. It includes 1,000 multifamily residences, 800,000 square feet of light industrial, 400,000 square feet of offices and 400,000 square feet of retail space.
Hobby told commissioners that the industrial portion will be located along State Road 52 and the multifamily residences will be townhouses behind it. He called it a “major employment development” that the county has been looking for. No members of the public addressed the commission.