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Friday, Nov 28, 2014
Pasco Tribune

Foes to appeal OK of Seven Springs apartment complex

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NEW PORT RICHEY -

A group is planning an appeal to the Pasco County Commission as the next step in its bid to block construction of an apartment complex among single-family homes in the Seven Springs area.

Despite opposition from the group We Are 5533 Strong, the Pasco County Development Review Committee upheld its OK of Oaks Apartments at Riverside Village east of Little Road and St. Lawrence Drive.

The homeowners in the group object to the plan for six two-story apartment buildings with 102 units on the north side of Amazon Drive. County approval would allow another six buildings if developers opt to construct a second phase.

Residents testified March 21 about their fears that the apartments would create unsafe traffic conditions and stormwater drainage problems and reduce the value of their houses.

Attorney Barbara Wilhite and other consultants said Clearwater-based Scherer Development LLC, the developer of Oaks Apartments at Riverside Village, already has made many changes to its plan, including reducing the buildings to two stories from three, and has agreed to help maintain drainage beyond the borders of the complex.

We Are 5533 Strong will submit the notice of appeal within the required 30 days, said Ralf Brookes, the Cape Coral lawyer representing it. County staff said it could be 150 days before the appeal lands on a county commission meeting agenda.

Under that timeline, the appeal would drag on for nearly a year. The apartment complex got approval on Sept. 14 from Pasco Planning and Development Administrator Richard Gehring.

Drainage was the primary issue the Development Review Committee addressed last week, but the group might shift its strategy to focus on zoning if commissioners grant an appeal, Brookes said.

DRC members insisted they had no authority to change the original multifamily zoning designation, made in the 1980s.

After the DRC decision last week, Brookes told Gehring why residents think the rental complex would be out of place in the neighborhood.

Condos may be more suitable for the site than apartments now that the real estate market is improving, Brookes said. The owners could still rent condos until they were sold, he said.

Concerns regarding flooding in the area around the proposed apartment complex occupied most of the testimony at the DRC meeting.

“Here’s the $64,000 question,” said County Administrator John Gallagher, the DRC chairman. Would the revised drainage plan work if the county and developer did regular maintenance? Gallagher received reassurances that drainage would work.

Who owns a drainage ditch south of Amazon Drive, however, is unclear, Gallagher said. The county might need to obtain easements before it can carry out the drainage maintenance.

Work on the drainage network should happen monthly, since the area is choked with vegetation, Brookes said.

In another issue, a resident wondered why the county never pursued a plan to extend Nile Drive for right-turn-only access to Little Road. Gallagher said a county review concluded the Nile Drive extension would be unsafe. The county opted to put up traffic signals instead at Little Road and St. Lawrence Drive.

Residents hooted in derision at testimony before the DRC that existing roads could handle the traffic from the complex.

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