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Long Lake Ranch builders ask for 'leeway' on road

Sunlake Boulevard will connect to Hillsborough - just later than before.

By CHUIN-WEI YAP
Published April 27, 2007


NEW PORT RICHEY - The new stretch of Sunlake Boulevard was supposed to link the Hillsborough County road to State Road 54 in Pasco.

Under the terms of the deal for their 1,000-acre, 2,000-home development, the builders of Long Lake Ranch were required to create the connector.

But now, unless the residential market recovers in a hurry, the new road could be just a dead-end for years.

The development's attorney, Joel Tew, won approval from the county's top planners Thursday to break the Sunlake extension into two parts.

The developer must build the first half up front, starting from SR 54 and reaching southward roughly halfway through Long Lake Ranch. But Tew obtained "breathing room" for the developer to build 600 homes before finishing the connection.

"We want some leeway for 600 units before it connects," Tew said. "We're not asking to cheat on the deal."

Tew pointed out that Hillsborough road planners had objected to the connection in the past, though he also acknowledged that recent planning decisions in Hillsborough suggest they are no longer so leery of Pasco motorists choking Lutz through that proposed Sunlake extension.

The county's planners agreed with Tew but added a couple of conditions:

The developer has to finish the connection three years from the completion of Long Lake Ranch's development agreement. Tew is now negotiating with the county on that agreement, which is expected to wrap up in about two months.

The other caveat: If the traffic load exceeds what SR 54 can handle, county officials can order Long Lake Ranch's developers to finish the Sunlake connection within a year.

Long Lake Ranch, developed by Beazer Homes and M/I Homes, sits just south of SR 54 between the Suncoast Parkway and U.S. 41.

Sunlake Boulevard would be the main road through Long Lake Ranch, going from Lutz to SR 54, and eventually pushing northward through Land O'Lakes.

The idea is to relieve congestion on thoroughfares like U.S. 41 and Dale Mabry Highway.

But Tew is also contesting that the deal requires him to connect to Sunlake Boulevard in Hillsborough. He said the builders only need to pave the road "up to the county line."

In Hillsborough, Sunlake now reaches 200 feet shy of the county line.

The language of the deal says Long Lake Ranch must connect the "existing terminus of Sunlake Boulevard in Hillsborough County."

Chuin-Wei Yap can be reached at 813909-4613 or cyap@sptimes.com.