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Development seems to point to city's viability

Expanding residential and commercial bases are indicators that appear to rebut the call for Port Richey's dissolution.

Published February 15, 2004

PORT RICHEY - When a group of Port Richey residents began circulating a petition last month calling for the dissolution of the municipality, City Manager Vince Lupo was quick to offer two arguments against the idea.

First, he said, the city has not raised taxes in recent years while the county and school system have. Second, residential and commercial growth has taken off, ensuring a promising future for the 78-year-old city.

Lupo was not quite right on the first point. The county and schools also held taxes. But he was correct about growth. A mix of new and proposed housing and businesses has put Port Richey on the verge of significant expansion.

Most of the development is west of U.S. 19, but a quiet renaissance is taking place to the east, along the Cotee River. Once a series of dilapidated homes on Baylea Avenue and James Clark Street, several businesses have been established in the past three years, the anchor being the Crab Shack, a restaurant and bar that has tripled in size without formal advertising.

Owner Robyn Pfeiffer is joined by a kayak shop, a boat rental and storage business, a nearby barbecue joint, as well as a marine construction company. A former residence is being converted into a cafe and a restored home might hold an antique shop.

Parking, however, is in serious demand and could threaten the progress in that area. The man who owns the land the Crab Shack occupies approached the city to use a vacant corner lot as parking but the zoning regulations will not allow that use; a solution was being developed in late January.

The city has plans for a parking garage on the west side of U.S. 19 but those too have met setbacks when the prime location was bought by the Kolokithas family, operators of the casino boats.

One of the hottest areas is that near Wal-Mart on Ridge Road and U.S. 19.

In January, work began on an R.J. Gator's Hometown Grill & Bar, Washington Mutual bank and the Dollar Store slated for a 2-acre lot in front of the Wal-Mart. The businesses, developed by Realm Management of New Port Richey, are scheduled to open in May. The restaurant will employ about 100 people.

A Dunedin developer wants to put 130 townhomes on 16.5 acres adjacent to Wal-Mart. The homes, if built, would sell in the low- to mid-$100,000 range.

There also are plans on the books for 44 single-family homes on about 40 acres off Ebbtide Lane, near American Marina. A city official who spoke with the developer said the homes would go for between $250,000 and $750,000.

The above housing projects still are in the planning stages. Far more along is Doug Markham, who has been approved for seven single-family homes on Bay Boulevard, one of the most desired waterfront locations in Port Richey. The lots alone will sell for between $425,000 and $590,000, said Markham, who also is developing residential property adjacent to Werner Boyce Salt Springs State Park.

[Last modified February 15, 2004, 01:15:45]

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