$100M gap flutters in mall road negotiations

Published May 31, 2007

WESLEY CHAPEL - They were more than $100-million apart.

And they are still huddled in meetings trying to close the gap.

But the county is showing some signs - or, at least, their consultants are offering some different numbers - of lowering its demands on the developers of Wiregrass Ranch.

Leery of the traffic impact of the proposed 5, 000-acre behemoth in Wesley Chapel, Pasco at first wanted Wiregrass to pay for $627-million in road improvements.

Wiregrass wanted to pay something in the region of $477-million.

Now, county consultants are talking of offering something close to $585-million instead.

Michele Baker, the county's chief assistant administrator, stressed that the numbers are still in flux.

It seems every day brings a slightly different number, she said.

"Last Friday, I heard $590-million, " she said. "The other day, I heard $581-million."

Baker said that neither the county's top brass nor Joel Tew, Wiregrass' attorney, has signed off on the latest figures.

"URS and King are working through the technical aspects of the proportionate share, " she said.

"Proportionate share" refers to what Wiregrass will pay out of a total estimated $1.8-billion worth of road improvements required of the development.

URS Corp. is Pasco's consultant. King refers to King Engineering, the firm representing Wiregrass.

Tew was unavailable for comment Wednesday.

Wiregrass is headed for its final hearing on June 19 before the County Commission.

Chuin-Wei Yap can be reached at 813 909-4613 or cyap@sptimes.com.