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Wesley Chapel wants to know what's in a name

Some businesses and real estate agents have dubbed it "North New Tampa."

By JAMES THORNER
Published September 19, 2003

WESLEY CHAPEL - Pore over a map 'til the day turns dim and you won't find North New Tampa anywhere.

Neither can the Greater Wesley Chapel Chamber of Commerce. And there's the rub.

Trying to hitch themselves to Tampa's star, real estate agents and other business people habitually call Wesley Chapel "North New Tampa" or "New Tampa."

The name confusion, deliberate or not, is most visible in advertisements.

Lennar Homes sells houses by referring to Meadow Pointe, Grand Oaks and Chapel Pines as "New Tampa's finest communities." Grand Oaks and Chapel Pines are about 5 miles from New Tampa.

Prudential Tropical Realty described a three-bedroom house it's trying to sell in Meadow Pointe as "located in the growing North New Tampa area."

Even Futons Etc, which sells furniture just over the Pasco County line in Wesley Chapel, calls the store its "New Tampa location."

All of this could give Wesley Chapel residents an inferiority complex.

What's wrong with the name Wesley Chapel? asked Alison Berke Morano, chairman of the chamber's board. It's sort of melodious in its old-country-church way.

"If we were just another town, it would probably fly better with residents. But we're a completely different county," said Morano, who has handled three or four complaints over the issue this month.

The gripe is at least as old as a 2001 dispute between Wesley Chapel residents and developers of The Shoppes at New Tampa.

The Publix-anchored shopping center at Bruce B. Downs Boulevard and State Road 56 avoided mention of Wesley Chapel on its signs. A delegation from neighborhoods such as Williamsburg and Meadow Pointe took the slight personally.

If you scan brochures for Saddlebrook, the golf and tennis resort in Wesley Chapel, you wouldn't be dumb for thinking it's in Tampa. The city is an obvious point of reference for Saddlebrook's international clientele.

It's true, the line between Wesley Chapel and New Tampa has blurred.

Much of Wesley Chapel's suburban growth is tied to its association with and proximity to its southern neighbor. Both communities share Bruce B. Downs Boulevard as their main artery. For shopping purposes, the county line is invisible.

When you're trying to sell homes, especially to people from out of state, it pays to play up places everyone knows, said Betty Hillier, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker.

"A lot of people don't know where Wesley Chapel is, but they've heard of New Tampa," said Hillier, who's the agent for a "cute as a button home" in Meadow Pointe that's listed as New Tampa.

Morano foresees a day when Wesley Chapel can stand on its own. The chamber of commerce, which calls itself "Greater Wesley Chapel" to grab New Tampa membership, has swelled to 315 members this year.

It's no coincidence that a self-appointed committee, unaffiliated with the chamber, hopes to put a referendum on the ballot next year asking whether Wesley Chapel should become Pasco's next city.

"Business people should be proud to say Wesley Chapel now," Morano said. "It's such a pretty name."

[Last modified September 19, 2003, 01:48:06]


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