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2 families propose upscale housing

An alliance of two families would develop the proposed Handcart Heritage Estates, with about 30 luxury lots on 221 acres of cow pasture.

By JAMES THORNER, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 16, 2003

ZEPHYRHILLS -- Two land-owning families with deep roots in the community will jointly develop an upscale housing development east of Handcart Road.

For George Neukom Jr., best known for the drugstore he once ran in downtown Zephyrhills, it means divesting himself of more of the land his family has owned for about 100 years.

Neukom's son, George, and his son-in-law, Ron Oakley, have formed a company called Neuoak LLC to develop 221 acres of cow pasture northeast of Handcart and Fairview Heights roads.

Called Handcart Heritage Estates, the project calls for about 30 luxury lots in a country setting. Until recently, Handcart Road was notorious for its bumpy ride and clouds of dust. It's now being paved.

Like other developments proposed for this rural pocket of Pasco County west of Zephyrhills, the Neukom project has forsworn the densely packed homes on narrow lots that dominate Wesley Chapel and Land O'Lakes.

"It's going to be upscale, but I really haven't worked out the pricing yet," said Oakley, whose family is best known for its orange groves that speckle Pasco and Polk counties.

Oakley hopes to run horse and walking trails through the property. It makes the development similar to Lange Equestrian Village: large lots proposed for a 240-acre horse farm about a mile north of the Neukom land.

The Neukoms have slowly sold off their ancestral holdings near Zephyrhills. George Neukom Jr., the 66-year-old head of the family, converted two other parcels into the Colony Ranch and Arrowhead Place developments.

Neukom said he welcomes the next generation's taking over development. Two years of tussling with the government to lay the groundwork for the Handcart project was too much to bear, Neukom joked.

"That land's been in my family since way back in the turn of the century," he said. "But I got tired of development."

The business partners need the county to rezone the land to allow one home per 5 acres. The land's current agricultural zoning specifies one home per 10 acres.

The rezoning is scheduled for hearings before the county Planning Commission on May 14 and the county commissioners on June 3.

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