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Resistant residents can't block builders

To them, an 85-home development isn't just another development - it's a dramatic change in how they live.

By BRIDGET HALL GRUMET, Times Staff Writer
Published June 22, 2006

Eighty-five homes might not sound like much in a county that builds thousands each year.

But in the old mill town of Trilby, in northeast Pasco, residents say the conversion of 342 acres of pine trees into 85 upscale home sites strikes at their rural way of life.

Even Clarke Hobby, who grew up in Dade City and now represents the developer, acknowledged the project is the biggest change to the area since the Cummer & Sons Cypress Co. timber mill closed in 1958.

"I understand from some folks that the change is going to be hard," Hobby told the County Commission on Tuesday evening. "But I think we've got a good project, and it's going to be good for the area."

Commissioners unanimously approved a scaled-back version of Trilby Estates, with 85 homes instead of the 95 the developer requested. But that did little to appease longtime residents like Darrell Pennington.

"This development is just a real hard thing to stomach," said Pennington, noting the developer already has removed most of the pine trees.

Denny Mihalinec, who grew up playing among those pine trees at the southeast corner of Powerline and Christian roads, agreed: "For this area, that's a lot of homes." He suggested 34 10-acre lots instead.

But Trilby Estates will have fewer homes per acre than most of the nearby properties, including a mobile home park, developer engineer King Helie said. Most of the lots in the 95-home plan were 3 acres, with 300-foot-wide strips of open space along Powerline and Christian roads and between the rows of houses.

The design is a hybrid between the old style of rural development, in which giant tracts were evenly divided into 5- or 10-acre lots, and the new push toward conservation subdivisions, in which homes are clustered to leave patches of open space on the rest of the property.

Earlier this year, the county finished a special study of the northeast Pasco area that included requirements for conservation subdivisions. But when Trilby Estates came along, the residents seemed more interested in seeing large lots than clustered homes with open space, Hobby said.

Commissioner Ted Schrader, whose district encompasses northeast Pasco, said the resulting design was unimaginative.

"I'm quite frankly a little bit disappointed they didn't come up with something more creative," he said.

Neighbors also criticized the county for charging the developer only $21,675 toward improvements on Powerline Road. But Sam Steffey, the county's growth management administrator, said that number was based on the amount of traffic Trilby Estates would generate.

The property is owned by three limited liability corporations - Christian Powerline LLC, Powerline LLC and North Powerline LLC - with common Tampa shareholders James R. Robbins Jr., Thomas A. Howze, James M. Talley Jr., Tyson H. Lykes II and Lee F. Pallardy III.

Considering the size of the property and the extra homes allowed for conservation subdivisions, Commissioner Steve Simon called 85 homes "a heck of a deal for the citizenry."

"I think that they (the developers) went the extra mile," Simon said.

In other news Tuesday, commissioners approved a "granny flats" amendment that gives a tax break to homeowners who build an addition to house an elderly relative.

Normally, an addition would increase the home's value, thereby increasing the property taxes. But under the new ordinance, if the addition was built for a parent or grandparent over 62, the property owner can seek a reduction in the home's taxable value.

County officials also proposed dramatic increases to water and sewer impact fees, one-time charges to new homes to pay for expanding the utility system.

For new homes that do not have reclaimed water, the impact fees would rise from $556 to $1,561 for water service and $1,500 to $2,730 for wastewater service. For new homes that have reclaimed water, the impact fees would rise from $523 to $1,171 for water service and $1,058 to $2,730 for wastewater service.

The proposal will go before the county's Impact Fee Advisory Board before returning to the County Commission in a few months for public hearings and a vote.

[Last modified June 21, 2006, 22:56:49]