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Talks focus on new parks

By ALISA ULFERTS

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 20, 2000


NEW PORT RICHEY -- With another 3,000 new homes headed for Wesley Chapel, County Administrator John Gallagher wants to make sure the county and the developers have one thing clear: More land and money are needed for infrastructure, especially parks.

Gallagher and some of his department directors sat down with about 25 developers and their attorneys Thursday to discuss preparations for the waves of growth that continue to arrive in Wesley Chapel.

The meeting's purpose was twofold: to let the developers know where the county needs their help in creating the infrastructure to serve their developments and to get ideas from developers on how to do that.

Both sides agreed they want to avoid the sloppy, junky appearance that they say is visible in parts of Pasco: run-down signs, banners and a lack of landscaping.

But by far the item that rated the most discussion was how to balance the county's desire to build larger parks for ball fields and recreation centers with the smaller parks developers build in their subdivisions that help them market the homes.

Generally when a new development is approved, county officials demand some land to place a park and some money to build it. The amount asked by the county likely will increase after the county receives the results of a study to set park impact fee levels. But those results won't be in for about another nine months, Gallagher said.

That's why the county is pushing a new idea now: Get developers to pool their required park land donations in a central area and create a larger park. The same concept could also work for roads and utility lines as developers enter areas where the current infrastructure isn't sufficient to support their developments.

"We all know it's the right thing to do," Gallagher said. But many developers seem to forget that when attention is turned to their projects, he added. Details will have to be worked out later, but Gallagher said he'd like to hold additional meetings like Thursday's in the future.

Land use attorney Ben Harrill, who helped organize a similar meeting several weeks ago, said he thought Thursday's two-hour meeting was productive.

"They made some excellent points," Harrill said. "I think I hear the development community agreeing. Now how that ultimately comes about, that's the question."

- Alisa Ulferts covers Pasco County government. She can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6244 or (800) 333-7505, ext. 6244. Her e-mail address is ulferts@sptimes.com.

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