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Wesley Chapel

New homes aim for neighborly feel

The development on part of the 5,000-acre Wiregrass Ranch will feature houses with front porches, rear alleys and detached garages.

By JAMES THORNER
Published September 19, 2003

WESLEY CHAPEL - Wesley Chapel's newest neighborhood plans to take a page from a Leave it to Beaver script.

Front porches, rear alleys and detached garages will figure in a new development that Pulte Home Corp. wants to build on part of the 5,000-acre Wiregrass Ranch.

Covered by pasture and swamp, Wiregrass is the last huge undeveloped tract in Wesley Chapel between State Road 54 and County Line Road.

It's sandwiched between Saddlebrook Resort and the 3,500-home Meadow Pointe neighborhood.

Labeled a "traditional neighborhood development," Pulte's project aims to create an atmosphere conducive to strolling and neighborliness.

Homes will be 10 feet apart. Twelve-foot-wide alleys will run behind some of the houses.

This residential style has gained popularity. Longleaf is probably the best-known in Pasco County. The 900-home development in Odessa features a columned community center on a village green, a small downtown and gabled home facades.

Connerton, the "new town" proposed for northern Land O'Lakes, proposes building a quarter of its 8,700 homes in a similar peddle-your-bike-by-the-picket-fence style.

Pulte plans a sister development - an active adult golf-course community - a short distance east of the traditional neighborhood.

The adult community would offer a mix of houses, duplexes and attached villas.

Combined, Pulte's two neighborhoods would hold 1,999 homes, according to a rezoning application reviewed by Pasco planners.

A future extension of State Road 56 would run along their southern boundaries.

The two Pulte projects, occupying about a quarter of the ranch, are just a taste of what Wiregrass will look like once it's paved and plastered.

The Porter family, which owns the ranch, has cut a deal with a West Palm Beach commercial developer called the Goodman Co. to develop shopping centers.

Goodman has tried to interest mall developers. But the first shopping complex, with between 250,000- and 500,000-square-feet of stores, is planned for the northeast corner of State Road 56 and Bruce B. Downs Boulevard.

Goodman has named the center Wiregrass Commons and predicts it will be ready for occupancy in late 2004. One of the rumored tenants is a Wal-Mart Supercenter, just 2 miles north of a heavily shopped supercenter on Bruce B. Downs in New Tampa.

Wiregrass also is the proposed home of a public tennis stadium near SR 54 and a seven-story hospital pitched by East Pasco Medical Center on Bruce B. Downs.

The Porters are developing their property piecemeal. That has allowed them to avoid the extra scrutiny of rezoning the ranch as a "development of regional impact," or DRI.

Pulte, for example, is building 1,999 homes. That's one shy of the cutoff of 2,000 homes at which a company is obliged to apply for a DRI.

Approval, which follows review by more than a dozen local, state and federal agencies, can take a couple of years.

Likewise, Goodman is trying to limit square footage at Wiregrass Commons so that it won't trigger DRI scrutiny.

- James Thorner covers growth and development in Pasco County. He can be reached at 813 909-4613 or toll-free 1-800-333-7505, ext. 4613. His e-mail address is thorner@sptimes.com

[Last modified September 18, 2003, 10:36:32]

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