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County stands firm on roadside green rules

Several businesses claim the new landscaping ordinance is a hardship to their development plans. The county disagrees.

By JAMES THORNER, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published August 10, 2002


Pasco County passed its landscaping and irrigation ordinance in February with an eye toward beautifying future roadside businesses by buffering them with trees, bushes, grass and flowers.

But the reaction from an increasing number of retailers has been to beg for breaks from the planting requirements.

A McDonald's on U.S. 41 in Land O'Lakes, a storage business on U.S. 301, a gas station/convenience store on Bruce B. Downs Boulevard and a doctor's office on State Road 54 in Wesley Chapel all sought to minimize the green-thumb treatment to their property.

Aside from the McDonald's, whose existence predated approval of the ordinance, the county's Development Review Committee took a hard line at a meeting Thursday.

The most heated debate concerned a company called Peregrine International LLC, which wanted to build the convenience store and gas station without the necessary 20-foot vegetative buffer from Bruce B. Downs.

Sacrificing 20 feet for vegetation would leave the property difficult to market to retailers, Peregrine representatives argued.

But County Administrator John Gallagher complained that the very same businesses who swaddle themselves in lush plants in other counties suddenly claim hardship when they move to Pasco. He also raised the issue of uniformity, wondering how a road would look if a business could choose the extent of its landscaping.

"You start giving variances . . . our heads are going to be spinning," Gallagher said.

County Attorney Robert Sumner suspects businesses contracted to buy land before the ordinance was approved and later learned they lacked room for all the shrubs and trees.

But Dennis Smith, a Wesley Chapel resident and a member of Scenic Pasco, argued that the county should start enforcing its regulations with Peregrine and others.

"The applicant is simply trying to cram too many commercial activities into limited space," he said.

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