ZEPHYRHILLS — Pasco school district officials want to know whether the city has any interest in leasing a portion of the former Hercules Park property.
The park was a topic of discussion at last week’s city council meeting. The school board is considering land use and zoning changes to allow commercial development on the property.
“They have been approached by gas stations,” City Manager Jim Drumm said.
Drumm said city officials and school district staff have been meeting for more than a year to determine an alternative use for the park property at the corner of County Road 54 East and U.S. Highway 301.
Lance Smith, council president, recently organized a meeting of school board and senior city officials to discuss dividing the land for commercial use, recreation and stormwater retention.
Another possibility includes using some of the property to make up for property losses at Clements Field, the Zephyrhills High School baseball field, when County Road 54 is widened.
The 15-acre property belongs to the school district. The property was turned over to Pasco County several years ago when the county built Hercules Aquatic Center housing East Pasco County’s only public pool.
The pool was to close in 2010 as a cost-saving measure, until the nonprofit Zephyrhills Police Athletic League signed a contract to run the pool. The contract with ZPAL was terminated after the organization was unable to pay bills to keep the pool open. Pasco County deeded the property back to the school board in early 2012.
Now the property sits idle and fenced off. The pool is empty, and the grounds have not been maintained. Homeless people have been found camping in the small wooded area between the pool and U.S. 301.
Council members were not impressed with the possibility of a gas station on the property.
“That is a beautiful piece of property, I see this beautifully treed area, then I try to see it as a gas station,” Councilman Kent Compton said. “That property is too drop-dead gorgeous to turn into a gas station.”
The council also discussed operating the park’s pool again. The school board and county do not want to operate the pool.
Zephyrhills council members, although not opposed to the concept of the city operating a pool, are not willing to commit the money. Operating the pool costs about $120,000 per year, Drumm said.
Councilwoman Jodi Wilkeson suggested asking residents whether they would be willing to take a raise of one mill in property taxes to fund the pool.
Drumm pointed out that the pool is 18 years old and in need of a lot of repairs. He said if the city decided to operate a pool it may be prudent to build a new one.