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Incorporation not in east Pasco future

Last year, two attempts to form city governments in Land O'Lakes and Wesley Chapel failed and future bids aren't likely.

By JAMES THORNER
Published February 15, 2004

WESLEY CHAPEL - Knitting geographically sprawling suburbs into locally governed communities has proved harder than many in Wesley Chapel and Land O'Lakes expected.

Witness last year's push by a group of Wesley Chapel residents to create Pasco County's seventh, largest and richest city. And Land O'Lakes' attempt to mandate an architecturally uniform town center against the wishes of affected landowners.

By year's end, both efforts had fallen and couldn't get up.

A committee of Wesley Chapel residents and business people, representing no one but themselves, floated the idea of forming a new city, mainly with an eye to shaping development in the fast-growing suburb.

The city would have swallowed 11 percent of the county's land area, which would go from Cypress Creek Road 9 miles east to Morris Bridge Road and County Line Road north to near Elam Road.

Holding a 2004 referendum on incorporation required completion by December of a detailed community profile that could have run into hundreds of pages. It couldn't be done.

Wesley Chapel incorporation failed to win many friends. Large landowners such as the Porter family, whose 5,000-acre Wiregrass Ranch is destined for thousands of homes, stayed silent.

The Greater Wesley Chapel Chamber of Commerce out-and-out opposed incorporation, as did residents fearful the county and proposed city would double-dip on property taxes. Community leaders are retrenching with a proposal for a Wesley Chapel "vision plan" that could include talk of incorporation.

A vision plan is essentially what Land O'Lakes residents commissioned two years ago in the face of a similar explosion of residential and shopping center development.

A committee calling itself the Heart of Land O'Lakes proposed laying out a city center near U.S. 41, School Road and Bell Lake Road and mandating a front-porch-and-tin-roof-style building standard they dubbed Old Florida.

Opposition, led by landowners such as former county Property Appraiser Ted Williams, succeeded in pressing an alternative "Keep Land O'Lakes Beautiful" plan. Gone were the architectural standards. Compliance was to be voluntary.

For better or worse, Wesley Chapel and Land O'Lakes, where thousands of new homes could rise in the next few years, will probably remain unincorporated suburbs controlled from distant offices in New Port Richey.

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


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