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Wednesday, Oct 22, 2014
Pasco Tribune

County backtracks on New Port Richey project

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DADE CITY — An apartment complex planned on Amazon Drive in New Port Richey may be headed for approval after all.

The Pasco County Commission, in a 3-2 vote, decided Tuesday to reconsider Sherer Development’s permit application after an attorney representing the company said a lawsuit against the county and three commissioners individually would be likely if that didn’t happen.

The two dissenting votes came from two of the commissioners who could have faced litigation, Pat Mulieri and Henry Wilson.

Jack Mariano, the third commissioner cited by the attorney, made the motion to reconsider the plan for the 102-unit complex, which had been opposed by neighbors who said they were concerned the complex would compound flooding problems.

“If we let it stand as is, I think we are going to lose later,” he said.

On Aug. 27, Mariano, Mulieri and Wilson went against the counsel of the county attorney and voted 3-2 to remand the permit approval of the apartment complex back to the county’s Development Review Committee for further study of drainage issues.

Attorneys for Sherer Development compared the vote Aug. 27 to “an illegal public mugging.”

“They decided they did not like the law, so they ignored it, along with their legal duties,” attorney Robert Lincoln wrote in a letter to Chairman Ted Schrader on Monday. “My clients were attacked personally from the dais and subjected to humiliation and attacks on their reputation.”

Schrader said he could bring the issue up for discussion but only a member of the prevailing side could make a motion to reconsider the earlier decision.

“Hopefully, one of the three of them will reconsider so we can avoid what will be a very expensive, costly lawsuit,” Schrader said before Tuesday’s meeting.

The one who did was Mariano, who said he had misinterpreted some of the information and thought there had been a rezoning of the property, which wasn’t the case.

County Attorney Jeffrey Steinsnyder said the commission now must advertise the fact it will reconsider the permit approval at an upcoming meeting, probably in October.

It has been two years since Sherer applied for a permit to build the complex, called the Oaks. The parcel was zoned for multifamily housing in 1981, and county planning staff approved the site plan a year ago.

County Administrator Michele Baker said the additional drainage studies could delay the project for two more years.

During the four-hour hearing Aug. 27, state Rep. Richard Corcoran and Tax Collector Mike Fasano urged commissioners to deny the project — and not to worry about being sued. Corcoran told the board to “do the right thing and damn the consequences.”

Lincoln said the three commissioners who took that advice acted outside the scope of their role during the appeal and each would be individually liable for damages.

The apartment complex plan calls for 102 units in six two-story buildings and amenities that include a clubhouse, pool, playground, park and seven garage buildings.

Reporter Laura Kinsler contributed to this article.

rblair@tampatrib.com

(813) 371-1853

Twitter: @RBlairTBO

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