Appraisals bolster plan to expand sports park
By JAMES THORNER, Times Staff Writer
LAND O'LAKES -- Doubling the size of the Land O'Lakes Recreation Complex probably won't kill Pasco County's budget.
After several months of work, an appraiser has come up with proposed prices for 12 parcels the county wants to buy along 20 Mile Level Road behind the recreation complex.
Although Pasco will keep the numbers under wraps pending negotiations with landowners, county parks director Jim Slaughter said the appraisals don't exceed the $1-million the county has set aside to expand the park by up to 40 acres.
"The appraisals have come back, and they're in the ballpark," Slaughter said Friday.
Sports enthusiasts complain the complex on Collier Parkway has too few fields and too little parking to handle the growing suburban community.
The park crunch intensified earlier this year when 700 players with the Central Pasco United Soccer Association lost their practice fields. The Pasco County school district needed the land, across from Pine View Middle School, to build a new elementary school.
If the land deal goes through, Pasco plans to install practice fields for football and soccer, parking spaces and, if the county gets the full 40 acres, a skateboard park.
It's still uncertain whether Pasco can seal deals with property owners who include Oakcrest Pet Cemetery proprietor Carolyn Shea. Two years ago neighbors rejected as too low a county offer of between $13,000 and $15,000 per acre.
Shea and her neighbors have hired an attorney and are busy commissioning counter appraisals. In Shea's case, Pasco wants to buy three vacant acres next to the cemetery, the burial ground of cats, dogs, horses, chimps and other critters.
Shea wants to make sure that if she sells, her remaining property is screened from the blaring lights and yelling sports crowds.
The cemetery is all the more valuable as the final resting place of her parents, Jay and Dee Hodgson.
"My biggest concern is for cemetery visitors," Shea said with the back of the county gymnasium visible in the background. "I don't want to be left with a postage stamp surrounded by the park."
Slaughter has scheduled a meeting with property owners in November to discuss a tentative layout of the park were it to double in size.
The county is stuck in a Catch-22, Slaughter said. It can't really lay out the park until it knows which property owners will sell. But property owners won't sell until they see a park layout.
As part of an overhaul to the park property, the county also plans to double the adjacent Land O'Lakes library and build a fire station between the recreation complex and the library.
-James Thorner covers growth and development. He can be reached at (813) 909-4613 or toll-free 1-800-333-7505, ext. 4613. His e-mail address is email@example.com.
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