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Buses aren't pretty, but that's not enough

By Times editorial
Published January 31, 2007


Dade City has much for which it can be proud - rich heritage, diverse culture, civic spirit, and a sense of community that stretches from helping the less fortunate through a benevolent trust fund to showing off the downtown commerce at the just-concluded Kumquat Festival.

It's that charitable quality that needs to be on display again as the city leaders consider objections to a temporary bus parking lot near the Church Street historic district.

A relatively benign plan for a temporary bus parking lot abutting Pasco Middle School is drawing the ire of some Dade City residents because of its proximity to the Church Street historical district.

The parking lot at 14th Street and Howard Avenue is not actually in the historic district, though certainly it is visible from it. The district of church buildings and stately homes runs along Church Street between Ninth and 17th streets.

Church Street is one of three historic districts in Pasco County. Downtown Zephyrhills, with 126 buildings over 840 acres, is the largest historic district in Pasco. Saint Leo Abbey's three buildings on 100 acres, also is a historic district according to the National Register of Historic Places.

Initially, residents complained of a bus garage constituting an improper industrial use for the property. However, no maintenance or mechanical building is planned. The objections boil down to aesthetics. That is understandable, and school district officials are sympathetic.

"We understand the concerns," said Mike Park, the school district's transportation director. "School buses aren't pretty." It's why the district plans to landscape the property to shield passersby from seeing the buses.

Parking buses outside the school district's regional transportation compounds is not ideal, but growth in the district is making space scarce. The district had 430 buses on the roads each day to deliver students to and from schools. As new schools open, new bus routes are devised and additional vehicles are needed. (The school district is currently parking buses at three Zephyrhills schools as well.)

Suggestions for the city to block the parking lot through zoning rules are implausible. Parking buses next to a school is an allowable use for the land. The property on the middle school campus became vacant after the district demolished a 1914 asbestos-tainted building that housed the county's first high school.

Regrettably, the objections surfaced even though the lot is temporary. Though no time line has been established, the district could build a bus lot and garage off Old Pasco Road in the future.

Yellow school buses traveling the streets are a fact of life in any desirable place to live. It's indicative of a school-age population obtaining an education. Having a temporary place to park the buses shouldn't degenerate into a city effort to locate the lot anywhere - just not in my back yard.

[Last modified January 30, 2007, 23:27:39]

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