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Planners won't support nudists' expansion

Lake Como resort in Land O'Lakes wants to build homes on 32 acres, but neighbors are fighting the plan.


© St. Petersburg Times, published March 15, 2001

Neighbors tolerated the naked parachutist who landed in one of their yards.

They didn't really mind the noise of the nude volleyball games.

Nor did the man wandering in the buff through the orange grove overly upset them.

But when Lake Como nudist resort in Land O'Lakes announced plans to expand by 32 acres, neighbors on Lake Como Drive and Moss Branch Court decided they wouldn't grin and bear it anymore.

On Wednesday, a majority of the Pasco County Planning Commission agreed enough with neighbors to reject the nudist resort's rezoning application.

But the planning commission only makes recommendations. The real decision makers are the county commissioners, scheduled to discuss the rezoning March 27 in New Port Richey.

But the planning commission's thumbs-down recommendation was enough to deflate several Lake Como residents who attended Wednesday's meeting in Dade City.

"We came out on the bottom," complained resort spokesman Donald Jengo.

The 200-acre nudist resort, which opened in 1940 at Leonard and Cot roads, has struggled financially since septic system overload forced it to arrange a $1.1-million hook up with county sewers and water lines.

To help balance its books, Lake Como proposes leasing lots on a 32-acre orange grove it owns south of the existing resort. Nudists want to put as many as 60 mobile and modular homes on the property, which is zoned for agriculture.

But about 20 neighbors who attended the planning commission worried about losing the grove, a buffer between nude and non-nude residents in that part of Land O'Lakes. At a minimum, residents want a masonry fence to block children from glimpsing naked flesh.

Clyde Stephens, who said he has lived in the neighborhood for 32 years, recalled how a sod man came up to him and inquired about strange goings on.

"He said, 'Sir, what kind of a neighborhood do you got? I seen a naked man.' " Stephens told the planning commission.

Other neighbors didn't object to nudism but worried about increasing traffic and incompatibility between the nudists' mobile homes and the pricier site-built homes on their streets.

"I have nothing against the lifestyle," Lake Como Drive property owner Floyd DeForest said. " . . . But their property rights end where mine start."

The planning commission agreed, citing neighborhood incompatibility for rejecting the rezoning petition.

Jengo called the ruling unfair. The resort, which draws visitors from as far as Europe, produces negligible crime and lots of money for local businesses.

"We believe we are an asset to the community," he said.

In other business, planners blessed the 6,700-home Cannon Ranch project on State Road 52 but not before one commission member complained the county wasn't doing enough to stop groundwater depletion.

Commission member Peter Gottschalk threatened to vote against the project to make a statement about water shortages, which Gottschalk said could lead to a building freeze.

County attorney Robert Sumner warned planners that the county's influence over water is constrained by its agreement with Tampa Bay Water, the regional water agency.

Whether the county approves 100,000 homes or 1 million homes, Tampa Bay Water is obliged to give Pasco all the water it needs, Sumner said.

If the planning commission objected to the development on water grounds, he would tell county commissioners to ignore the planners' recommendation, Sumner said.

"Don't try to hold this development hostage," Sumner told Gottschalk.

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