Wiregrass okayed despite objections

Hillsborough wants $28-million to help deal with the traffic the Pasco project will generate.

By BILL COATS, Times Staff Writer
Published October 18, 2007

TAMPA - The state gave a green light Wednesday to Wesley Chapel's Wiregrass development - the largest in Pasco County history - despite the objections of Hillsborough County.

It means Hillsborough, which is planning to spend $130-million widening Bruce B. Downs Boulevard by 2012, won't get any money from Wiregrass, which will largely fill up the new lanes with traffic.

Pasco County is requiring Wiregrass to pay for $579-million in road improvements in Pasco. Hillsborough wants $28-million for Bruce B. Downs.

"I've never seen doors slammed so fast," complained Hillsborough County Attorney Renee Lee.

Hillsborough thought it had a foot in the door a month ago when the Wiregrass plans were held up by the Department of Community Affairs, Florida's growth management agency. But Pasco and the department quickly made peace without indulging Hillsborough's request. The department concluded Pasco had the right to allot the Wiregrass road money.

Pasco has considered the case closed since then. But David Goldstein, a senior assistant county attorney for Pasco, said further intervention by Hillsborough could prompt Wiregrass' lenders to balk.

"Wiregrass could consider claims against Hillsborough for damages," Goldstein said.

On Wednesday, all state objections formally ended.

Lee said her staff would study Hillsborough's options. She could sue Pasco, but Florida law imposes extra administrative hurdles when one county sues another.

"What they're doing is legal," Lee said of Pasco. "But legal doesn't always make it right."