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County's wealth moves to the east

The 2000 Census shows population and income growth in central Pasco with the whole county getting younger in the 1990s.

By MATTHEW WAITE, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published May 24, 2002


The economic good times of the 1990s and demographic upheaval within Pasco County combined to drive central Pasco's prosperity while leaving west Pasco largely behind.

Census figures released Thursday show that the 1990s boom was good in Land O'Lakes: wealthier families, better educated people living in bigger houses, where they parked more cars.

But many in west Pasco got less well-off than their neighbors to the east, more often renting their homes and generally having less than those in the central part of the county.

Pasco had the ninth-largest jump in household income in the state, adding 17.6 percent to household incomes after adjusting for inflation, which brings the median income to $32,969. That figure ranked 38th in the state, behind Hillsborough (15th at $40,663) and Pinellas (25th at $37,111).

But within Pasco, income growth was not distributed evenly.

Land O'Lakes, which more than tripled in size during the 1990s, saw household income grow 21.9 percent to $56,789. Wesley Chapel, which wasn't recognized as a Census Designated Place by the bureau in 1990, had a median income of $65,293.

West Pasco didn't fare as well. With the exception of Hudson and Elfers, most established areas of west Pasco didn't keep pace with the county.

Holiday had a 15.4 percent income increase to $28,028.

Beacon Square had 10.3 percent growth to $24,954.

Within the city of New Port Richey, household income grew 7.1 percent to $25,881.

Jasmine Estates, an area north of Port Richey, south of State Road 52 and between U.S. 19 and Little Road, declined 2.7 percent to $26,935.

Within the city of Port Richey, household income declined 4.3 percent to $27,404.

Elfers' household income grew 20.4 percent to $28,998 and Hudson grew 31.7 percent to $33,177. Hudson's growth -- in both income and Social Security income -- can be seen in the newer subdivisions along Hudson Avenue.

The latest data from Census 2000 came from the long-form questionnaire given to roughly one in six households nationwide. The numbers are estimates based on statistical sampling.

More detailed numbers will be released in the summer, but the latest data continues to point to three distinct development patterns in Pasco:

Central Pasco, Land O'Lakes and Wesley Chapel specifically, are becoming large middle class enclaves, made up of younger families, owning larger homes than the rest of the county. More people there have college degrees and live in newer homes.

East Pasco has changed with the county, but at a more modest pace. Population and household incomes grew, but slower than the county as a whole (13-14 percent). Retirement areas remained retirement areas. The one difference in east Pasco is a much larger community of Hispanics, a group that grew much faster than the rest of the county in the 1990s.

West Pasco, while growing modestly in most categories, is rapidly changing from a retiree haven to young working parents, many living in rented homes, with the midpoint household income between $22,000 and $30,000. The median age in many west Pasco communities has dropped as much as a staggering 15 years. Once unthinkable in west Pasco, the number of households receiving Social Security dropped in many communities, as much as 27 percent.

When the Hines family moved into their home just off Jasmine Boulevard two years ago, they bought it from a retiree headed back north, and moved in with three young children.

Bill Hines, a pastor at the First Church of the Nazarene on Avery Road, said he was a little surprised by Jasmine Estates losing ground in the 1990s, but "I could see how that would happen."

"A lot of the older people are dying off," he said Thursday. Across the street from him, an elderly neighbor died this month. That house has already sold.

"There's a lot of young people moving into the neighborhood, I know that," Hines said.

The differences in the county are similar to many suburbanizing counties across the country, said William Klein, the director of research at the American Planning Association in Chicago. And the differences will be hard for county planners to overcome.

The pattern in many cities is the older suburbs, like west Pasco, are seeing the more affluent either moving away from or not moving to at all, Klein said. The residents who have lived in the older suburbs are either dying off or moving away. And since those older homes tend to be more affordable, lower income families move in.

And that can have far reaching effects, on businesses, on transportation, and on the families themselves.

Klein said older areas generally don't have mass transit access for workers, which essentially forces poorer workers to take on the expense of a car. And often the jobs that less affluent workers can get aren't near where they can afford to live.

"In order to get the job, they have a really long commute," Klein said. "There is a land use and job disconnect."

That most people in Land O'Lakes commute isn't surprising (83 percent drive to work). And that their average commute time is 33.6 minutes isn't surprising to anyone who has been on Interstate 75 during the morning rush.

But in more urbanized west Pasco, with far more established businesses, the commute times are nearly as long. Holiday is 29.4 minutes. Workers in Jasmine Estates (26.8 minutes), Port Richey (28.1), Beacon Square (29.9) and New Port Richey (25.4) all also had lengthy commute times to their jobs.

"Clearly, the new jobs are not being put in these older areas," Klein said. And that has social consequences, like parents spending less time with their children, he said.

And, Klein said with lower incomes and more costs, "Everybody in the house pretty much has to be working."

The income decline in Port Richey came as a surprise to City Manager Vince Lupo, but he said change already was on the way. The vast majority of development in the city in the past two years -- since the Census was taken in April 2000 -- has been high dollar waterfront homes.

"Those homes don't equate to low and medium income individuals," Lupo said.

And efforts that might be reflected in the 2010 Census are already under way, Lupo said. The city has begun efforts to revitalize depressed areas of the city, investing in infrastructure to spur development.

"That should have a rather dramatic effect in our medium- to low-priced housing areas," he said.

-- Times computer-assisted reporting specialist Constance Humburg and researcher Cathy Wos contributed to this report.

-- Matthew Waite can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6247, or toll free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6247. His e-mail address is waite@sptimes.com.

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