Developer's logic stalls on uncompleted road

A Times Editorial
Published May 22, 2007

Home builder Lennar's marketing campaign is "Everything you want. Everything you need. That's the logic of Lennar." It's logical as long as you don't want or need a road.

That is the unwelcome scenario in central Pasco where the School District is poised to spend $270, 000 for a temporary road to a new middle and high school complex because private-sector obligations are dragging.

The dollar figure might seem minimal considering the tens of millions of dollars spent on middle and high school construction. Still, it is $270, 000 that won't be available for other school spending. It could have bought four new school buses; paid for all of the high school's new furniture; covered 90 percent of the textbook costs at the school; or paid for all of the books in the media center with enough left over to hire two new teachers.

The schools, Sunlake High and Chuck Rushe Middle, are at the corner of Sunlake and Mentmore boulevards. Sunlake Boulevard is envisioned as a key part of the central Pasco grid system in which the divided north-south road carries traffic between Hillsborough County and State Road 52.

The first half-mile of that road, six lanes from State Road 54 northward, is in limbo. As detailed by Times staff writers Chuin-Wei Yap and Jeffrey S. Solochek, developers Lennar Homes, Newland Communities and Amprop Development were supposed to build that section of road. It would serve as access to the schools, which are scheduled to open in August.

The schools, however, are opening a year earlier then previously planned and Lennar's development order does not require its road work to be completed until its Concord Station development reaches 900 homes, or about 50 percent higher than its current total.

Newland, which needs access to its Bexley Ranch development, and Amprop, which is developing the commercial property fronting SR 54, have indicated a willingness to step up to complete the road to the school complex. Lennar has not and it declined to participate in cost sharing, wanted the others to handle its drainage requirements, and is seeking to profit from dirt excavated during construction of retention ponds, according to Newland's representative.

That's some logic. You build it. You take care of our other obligations, and, oh yeah, we'll keep the proceeds from selling the construction byproduct.

Lennar did not speak to Times reporters, but its representatives have indicated to county officials that the road-building requirement in the development order stayed with the original landowner, the Byrd family, and was never transferred when Lennar acquired the property.

Good faith should require Lennar to live up to the bargain regardless.

Sending hundreds of students daily across a temporary road is only a short-term solution. A permanent fix should be expedited with the cost absorbed by the responsible private-sector parties.

Failing to do so defies logic.