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Extension would connect 1,800 homes to Dale Mabry

A shopping complex also proposed for the future intersection of S.R. 54 and Sunlake Boulevard would be the bay area's largest.

By BILL COATS

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 19, 2000


LUTZ -- When Eileen Ramaglia moved to Sunlake Boulevard in 1974, she noticed that her little dead-end road was wide enough for four lanes, and sported landscaped medians. Yet the area was so thoroughly country that she kept a pair of horses out back.

"I wasn't that suspicious," she said.

Only in the mid-1990s, when property owners proposed Heritage Harbor, did Ramaglia learn that a northward extension was planned for her street.

And only last week did she realize the potential:

A future intersection of Sunlake and State Road 54 is being proposed in Pasco County as the hub for 1,087 houses, 717 apartments and the biggest single commercial development in the Tampa Bay area: 2-million square feet of stores.

The extended Sunlake would provide Pasco County drivers the straightest trip from the development down to N Dale Mabry Highway.

"They're going to have them come through on us," said Ramaglia, a 71-year-old retired airline employee.

She noted that at the intersection of Sunlake and Lutz-Lake Fern Road, just south of her house, traffic from the S.R. 54 development would converge with traffic from north Hillsborough's Lutz-Lake Fern growth corridor, also heading for Dale Mabry.

"Can you just see the humongous intersection down there when they put that collector road coming in from 54?" she said.

The plans recently were disclosed to Pasco County officials by representatives of Nick and Peter Geraci, ranchers who inherited more than 3,000 acres in Lutz and Land O'Lakes in the 1970s. Geraci land already has been developed into Calusa Trace and lately, Heritage Harbor. Immediately north of Sunlake, 368 of the Geracis' acres are zoned for 329 houses, but not developed.

The State Road 54 proposal, for more than 1,000 acres, is only tentative; no formal plans have been proposed. It would be considered a "development of regional impact," involving reviews by numerous government agencies.

It could be controversial in Pasco as well as on Sunlake. Just across S.R. 54, a proposed 1,200-home development called Oakstead has sparked a lawsuit from nearby landowners.

The Sunlake residents have scrapped with the Geracis before, after the brothers quietly obtained a permit to haul hundreds of truckloads of sand each day down Sunlake. The sand comes from a pair of excavations on the Geraci's Pasco land.

The county couldn't revoke the permit, but it agreed to the residents' proposal to install speed humps in the trucks' path.

Dave Andersen, a 36-year-old air compressor repairman, bought a house on Sunlake during the dump-truck controversy two years ago. But nobody told him about the extension plans, he said.

"I don't like any of the stuff that's going on," he said. "That's not right."

"The bottom line is, I don't think it's a collector road," Ramaglia said. "It shouldn't be. It's got humps on it."

But she acknowledged that could change.

"The people that have been here 25 and 30 years, we're not looking forward to it," she said.

-- Bill Coats can be reached at 226-3469 or coats@sptimes.com.

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