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Starkey plan a nod to patriarch
The grandchildren want to develop places where people can still walk into town.
By CHUIN-WEI YAP
Published June 21, 2007
[Special to the Times]
A drawing of Starkey Ranch town center in Odessa shows a series of walkable blocks and streets. The heart of the community is designed to include retail establishments, urban housing and civic buildings with an extensive green edge surrounding the center.
ODESSA - The legend of Jay B. Starkey Sr. goes something like this:
Fatherless at 10, he always wanted to be a cattleman. He snagged his first 10 acres in Largo in 1922 with a down payment of a horse, a hog and $50.
By the time he died in 1989, he had parlayed that into 16,000 acres of Pasco County pasture. The bulk of it went into the Starkey Wilderness Preserve. Some of it went to the Longleaf community his two grandsons built.
Now, the last 2,500 acres are poised to transform Odessa.
On the northeastern corner of Starkey Boulevard and State Road 54, Jay B. Starkey Sr.'s grandchildren -- Trey, Frank and Laura Starkey -- envision up to 4,200 homes, a 16-screen cinema, a downtown district, a business park, three schools, an 80-acre district park and a 100-room hotel.
More than half of the proposed Starkey Ranch is set aside as conservation land, linked by a network of trails. The family is going before the county's top staff planners today, partly to preserve the most sensitive wetlands from any development.
Laura Starkey is taking the lead on what's tentatively called the Starkey Center for Nature and Community, a nonprofit that will take care of conservation and wildlife management on the project.
"The community-based side of it is providing opportunities for people to interact with the land, to learn from it, enjoy it and touch it," she said -- then laughed and corrected herself: "Not touch it too much. Just to the degree that people are connected with nature."
The siblings are partnering with Crosland to develop the ranch's proposed town center, a 250,000-square-foot Main Street lined with cafes, stores and restaurants.
With Frank Starkey's involvement in the antisprawl New Urbanism movement, and with Longleaf as a model, it's no surprise that Starkey Ranch is envisioned as a compact "traditional neighborhood," with street grids, front porches and downtown centers within walking distance.
"The big thing about traditional neighborhoods is that it dethrones the car," Trey Starkey said. "We take care of the pedestrian first."
That sets the siblings up for a potential squabble with county traffic planners, according to county documents.
The county wants to extend Tower Road through the heart of the ranch as a four-lane, 45 mph route. The Starkeys argue that it's better for traffic flow and quality of life to split the extension into two 2-lane, 25 mph roads instead.
But more than a year's worth of government review lies ahead.
The Starkeys are going before the county Development Review Committee today to seek a change in the comprehensive land use plan, one of several hurdles they must clear.
They still have to secure a regional planning permit, pass rezoning hearings and get the County Commission's blessing.
"The best-case scenario is we have the shovel in the ground at the end of 2008," Trey said.