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Ambitious plan to build our future

Published February 20, 2007


Pasco County's proximity to the Gulf of Mexico is one the area's unique features. Being near the gulf enables us to enjoy activities such as fishing, kayaking, boating and swimming. But while water and some fishing sites are abundant in our area of the county, gulf access points are not. Currently, fishermen and boaters coming from the northern portion of west Pasco have to travel south all the way to Anclote River Park - sometimes even all the way to Pinellas County - to access the gulf.

Recently, the Pasco County Board of County Commissioners approved the design of a new regional Pasco County Park for northwest Pasco. The park will be located just south of the proposed SunWest Harbourtowne community, which will be located on the current Sun West Mine property. It will provide gulf access by way of an existing channel that flows into Fillman Bayou. The channel will be dredged (7.5 feet deep and 85 to 100 feet wide) and extended approximately 2.2 miles, providing much-needed deep-water gulf access to boaters. The regional park adjacent to the channel will feature parking for boat trailers and cars, boat ramps, restaurants, a swimming area, a walking trail and a manatee observation tower. This park adds value to our community, and enables visitors and residents to experience west Pasco's coastal Florida lifestyle.

Although not a true public-private partnership, this regional park represents one way that government and private businesses can work together. As part of a settlement agreement, the owners of SunWest Harbourtowne, SunWest Acquisition Corp., provided Pasco County with the land for the 22-acre park and $3-million. Additionally, SunWest Acquisition Corp. has agreed to remove 14 acres of Brazilian peppers, an invasive species growing in the channel, free of charge.

The proposed community will feature about 2,670 upscale residences, a marina, a hotel-conference center and an 18-hole championship golf course in a resort-style setting. SunWest Acquisition Corp. is working with state agencies, local government and community groups to protect the site's environmental and cultural resources. A resort-style community of this caliber is a major step in the right direction for tourism development in Pasco County.

Scheduled for completion in 2018, SunWest Harbourtowne is just beginning to move forward with the planning and approval process.

And it's a long process. The community will bring many changes to the area, and it's important for local residents and businesses to become part of the process. That's why I encourage Pasco County residents to attend a community meeting from 6 to 8 p.m. today at the Heritage Pines Country Club. During this meeting, we will learn more about SunWest Harbourtowne's plans, the process and what SunWest Acquisition Corp. is doing to preserve the area's natural and cultural resources.

I encourage you to attend this meeting and learn all you can about both SunWest Harbourtowne and the new Pasco County Park - both very exciting projects for our county.

Commissioner Jack Mariano, District 5


Cranes' deaths were preventable

During the day on Feb. 1, all our local and national TV stations were forecasting a strong cold front passing through our area during the overnight hours with a strong possibility of accompanying heavy rain, high winds and coastal flooding. Additional warnings were issued of possible tornados, and tornado watch and warning "boxes" were posted all over the north-central Florida weather map. It was clearly evident that it would be a rough night.

So where was the Operation Migration staff at this time? Why weren't they at the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge early in the day moving the whooping cranes to a safe location, or at least removing the netting over the cranes' pen so they could escape in the event of an emergency?

Those in charge of the operation who are entrusted with the well-being of these birds, who have so much invested in time, energy, money and true dedication to save the species, were asleep at the wheel.

There is no justification for losing these magnificent birds to the storm. The birds drowned; they were not blown apart by a tornado. They could have been saved had the people they so depended upon had the minimal foresight to take steps to prevent this tragedy.

Sophia Facciabella, Homosassa


Firefighters can't afford to keep job

I am a firefighter employed by Pasco County Fire and Rescue. I work with dedicated and experienced men and women, beginning with our fire chief down to the rank and file.

Recently, I was told that a co-worker and friend had resigned from Pasco Fire and Rescue. The reason this man resigned was that he could no longer afford the health insurance premiums, which are between $700 to $800 per month for family coverage. This, along with the mandatory overtime, gave him little time to be with his wife and children.

We are losing many of our experienced firefighters and paramedics to other areas because we are paying more than any other county for health benefits for families. Many of these men and women have been employed by Pasco County for up to 15 years.

I pray that our commissioners open their eyes and see they are putting our county at risk, with all these firefighters leaving. We have one of the most crucial jobs in the county. This is a grave problem. Do not minimize the burden it has put on families financially. If the county improved our wages and absorbed more of the cost of our health insurance, it would retain and attract other qualified firefighters to Pasco County.

County commissioners determine what we pay for health insurance, not the insurance companies. Remember, Pasco county firefighters are committed to excellence.

Frank Artura, Spring Hill


Gun stance loaded with hypocrisy 

Wesley Chapel, let's fight growth Feb. 15 letter

Once again, Arthur Hayhoe is making an attempt to set a double standard he thinks everyone should subscribe to. He's a gun owner, but preaches elimination of the rights of other gun owners, going so far as to state in one of his letters to the Times "only police and military should have guns."

Now, we have him leading the fight against unorganized growth in Wesley Chapel, growth that he became an integral part of when he moved there in 1996. I find it ironic that he always seems to preach hypocrisy.

Scott Factor, New Port Richey


[Last modified February 20, 2007, 07:26:54]

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