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County is looking for a regional park site

Developers with projects proposed for Wesley Chapel may be asked to donate land or money for an 80-acre recreational complex.

By JAMES THORNER

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 29, 2000


WESLEY CHAPEL -- Pasco County is searching for land to build an 80-acre park in Wesley Chapel, one of the county's fastest growing but most recreationally starved communities.

The new regional park would probably resemble the Land O'Lakes Recreation Complex: community swimming pool, basketball courts, tennis courts and sports fields.

County Administrator John Gallagher said the county will use its muscle to persuade developers with projects they need approved in Wesley Chapel to donate or pay for park property.

Gallagher plans to call a meeting of developers in the next two weeks -- developers of such large subdivisions as Meadow Woods, Saddlebrook Village and Wesley Chapel Lakes -- to negotiate cobbling together enough land for the park.

The county has identified two or three potential park sites near State Road 54, but the land has yet to be acquired, he said.

"There's so much building in Wesley Chapel, all the 80-acre parcels may be gone soon," Gallagher said at a meeting this week of the Pasco Development Review Committee.

Developers typically provide park sites -- or money roughly equal to the value of the land -- based on the number of homes they plan to build.

Gallagher said that process doesn't always work to the county's advantage: Much of the donated land tends to be swampy tracts the developer didn't want anyway.

At the meeting, developers could put their minds together to provide a contiguous 80 acres, Gallagher said. Developers with non-adjoining property could contribute money, maybe $250 per home, toward the park instead.

"If I can get the developers to give me the land and have the land locked up, I can go after park construction money from the board of commissioners," Gallagher said.

Its prime location several minutes north of Tampa has driven much of Wesley Chapel's growth. Over the next decade, developers plan to build more than 15,000 homes near State Route 54 and Bruce B. Downs Boulevard.

Planned subdivisions include Saddlebrook Village, a proposal for about 4,000 homes on both sides of Interstate 75, and Wesley Chapel Lakes, touted as a 4,000-home expansion of Meadow Pointe, one the region's best-selling subdivisions.

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