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County Delays Decision on Controversial Apartment Complex

The fight continues to drag on against a proposed apartment complex  that would be built in the middle of an area heavy with single-family homes off Little Road in unincorporated New Port Richey.

After hearing from residents who want to block the complex, county commissioners voted 3-2 to send the project the back to the development review committee to see what impact it will have on flooding and traffic in the area.

The decision was in response to an appeal to stop the apartments filed by a group of residents supported by Pasco County Tax Collector Mike Fasano, who used to own a home in the neighborhood next to the complex,  and state Rep Richard Corcoran.

Fasano, a former state lawmaker, and Corcoran urged the county commission to stop the project from moving forward, despite it meeting the requirements of the county development code and comprehensive plan and the possibility of facing lawsuits from the developer.

“Just say ‘No,’” to the developer, Fasano told commissioners.  “Don’t worry about lawsuits. “
 
In commission Chambers that were basically filled to standing room only, Residents flocked to express concern about the development

They complained about the possibility of increased traffic, the apartments not being compatible with the surrounding areas and the possible impact on flooding.  They drew comparison to Thousand Oaks in Trinity, which suffered severe flooding after Tropical Storm Debby.

The attempt to block the complex was made  in the form of an appeal of a development review committee decision in March that upheld approval for the project. That appeal was based on the apartments not being compatible with the surrounding area and zoning district and not flooding, but flooding dominated the discussion anyway.  

Corcoran, R- Trinity, urged the commission to delay the project and look at up-stream and down-stream discharges from the project.

“We’re not saying that developers can’t develop, but there’s good growth and there’s bad growth,” he said.

Clearwater-based Scherer Development wants to build a complex is to be called Oaks at Riverside Village, on 41 acres along Amazon Drive, east of Little Road in unincorporated New Port Richey. The complex will have 102 units in six, two-story buildings, although that is in phase one of the development, with the possibility of more in phase two.

The property has been zoned for multi-family development since 1981, but it is surrounded by subdivisions of single-family homes, including Heritage Lake, Southern Oaks and Riverside Village.   

Scherer proposed the complex two years ago, and the fight against it has been going on for more than a year now.

Residents would rather see a development of single-family condos that was already approved for the development last decade be allowed at the parcel.
County staff says the proposed complex meets all requirements of the county development code and comprehensive plan.

Commissioner Pat Mulieri said the current situation facing residents was a “travesty.”  

She said that the area surrounding the site for the complex has changed and that when the site was zoned multi-family  in the 1980s, it was easier for  developers to get the zoning they wanted. She questioned why the developer couldn’t build the single family homes.

“Why can’t you be a good neighbor and do with the community, not to them?” she asked.

Barbara Wilhite, the attorney representing Scherer noted that single-family homes weren’t in the plans.  She said that the drainage in the project area has been reviewed several times.

The concerns about drainage are a ”delay tactic to wear down my client,” she said.

Most of the commissioners agreed that the zoning was a mistake. However, chairman Ted Schrader and Kathryn Starkey lamented their hands were tied because the project met the county development requirements.

Commissioner Henry Wilson, who represents the area, thought that the county was missing facts about the possible impact on flooding.  He made a motion to send it back to the development review committee so they could look at drainage on larger scope than they have already reviewed. Mulieri and Commissioner Jack Mariano voted in support of that, sending the issue back to the DRC for an indeterminate amount of time.

On the possibility of a lawsuit, Wilson said: “I don’t think it should be something that should be directing our thoughts and our actions."

ssm August 28, 2013 at 10:37 AM
I agree with Mr. Fasano. Just tell these developers "No". I live in a neighborhood very close to where these apts. would go. I also struggled thru TS Debby last year when the water that was pushed from other neighborhoods into our land. We are 380 some residents that do not need flood waters. Those of us who had mortgages found out that flood insurance was mandatory. Never in 26 years were we considered a flood area. We need a voice that really understands the consequences of this situation and fight for us.
Diane Carlstrom August 28, 2013 at 01:13 PM
It seems clear this is more a case of NIMBY than anything else. Barbara Wilhite, the attorney representing Scherer noted that single-family homes weren’t in the plans. She said that the drainage in the project area has been reviewed several times. These homeowners don't want apartments nearby. Maybe the builder isn't looking at single family homes because the area has plenty of them sitting vacant. Were I a builder the last thing I would want is a bunch of single family homes sitting there waiting to be sold. The market is not exactly booming. Apartments would offer a steady stream of income. Isn't that what everything is about nowadays anyway? Money, money, money.

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