The long-awaited road connection between New Tampa's Kinnan Street and Meadow Pointe's Mansfield Boulevard will stay closed indefinitely, Pasco officials said this week after receiving a letter from the city of Tampa.
"It's pretty much a dead issue for us," Pasco Chief Assistant County Attorney David Goldstein said.
The two roads have been tantalizingly close since Kinnan was built six years ago. But Pasco officials had refused to allow for a connection at the county line until now, and only under certain conditions.
Goldstein had outlined the county's conditions, among them that either the city or the developer of K-Bar Ranch pay for traffic-calming improvements along Mansfield Boulevard. City and county officials appeared to be on the same page last November when they met to discuss the Kinnan connection, as well as a host of other road improvements that could improve traffic circulation in the area.
But Julia Mandell, an assistant city attorney for Tampa, said that after meeting with representatives from MI Homes, which recently acquired the development rights for K-Bar, neither the city nor developer was "in a position to be responsive" to Pasco's requirements.
"After ongoing discussions between the parties, the city and developer may be revisiting the existing zoning and terms of the (annexation) agreement given the change or conditions and needs within the New Tampa area," Mandell wrote in a letter sent to Pasco officials.
K-Bar is approved for 1,199 homes, but after the road connection is made with Pasco, the density may increase to 1,599. So far, the development has nearly 1,000 finished lots.
Officials with MI Homes could not be reached for comment.
"I'm assuming they're not interested in negotiating with us," Goldstein said. "There's not much they can do without the road open. They're capped. It sounds like they're going to ask the city to let them out of their cap."
Goldstein said he was disappointed that the city's response wasn't more specific. "I thought we would have had a more meaningful response," he said. "I thought our requests were pretty reasonable."
In addition to the traffic calming, Pasco officials also wanted the developer to agree to build a new road within K-Bar that would connect to Meadow Pointe Boulevard within four years and to donate right-of-way for an extension of Beardsley Drive to Morris Bridge Road.
Tampa City Councilwoman Lisa Montelione said the city is committed to working with Pasco County on the road network. "We're all about regionalism," she said. "I don't think you can say Tampa is stalling these discussions or that we're not being cooperative."
Montelione said the Tampa City Council amended K-Bar's development agreement a few months ago, so she doesn't know what type of changes MI Homes is seeking.
"The developer just closed on the parcel two months ago," she said. "It's kind of premature to expect us to come in and negotiate an interlocal agreement."
Montelione, who serves as vice chair of Hillsborough County's Metropolitan Planning Organization, said she plans to meet with Pasco's MPO director to discuss future road connections along the county line. She also wants to listen to what her constituents have to say about the Kinnan-Mansfield connection.
Pasco Commissioner Pat Mulieri has heard from people on both sides of the issue, including business owners on Cross Creek Boulevard who are gathering a petition to open the road. Mulieri had supported the opening, but she noted that many residents in Meadow Pointe will be thrilled that it isn't happening because they feared an onslaught of traffic from New Tampa onto Mansfield Boulevard.
"I think what staff was trying to do was to build a network of roads," Mulieri said. "We're not going to be locked at 465,000 people forever. We're going to grow, and we need to plan for that."
Goldstein said he doesn't think the roads will stay barricaded forever. "I think our board is willing to open the road if they're willing to work with us," he said. "The positive side is at least we tried."