County rehires urban planning institute
NEW PORT RICHEY - Five years ago, Urban Land Institute advisers essentially turned Pasco County upside down with ideas to streamline government with smart growth. In October, a ULI team will return to examine what the county could do for an encore. County commissioners last week approved spending $125,000 for the team from the nonprofit institute to visit Pasco for five days the week of Oct. 6. The county is paying the base fee, and the Pasco Economic Development Council will pay expenses such as meals, transportation and room rentals. After the ULI team's visit in 2008, many other counties in the region followed Pasco's example and hired ULI for independent analysis, said Richard Gehring, Pasco planning and development administrator.The visitors will devote most of their time to what steps the county might take next in a recovering economy, Gehring said. "They kicked our rear end," Pasco County Administrator John Gallagher, now retired, said at the time of the 2008 ULI report. The ULI team's "smart growth" advice led Gallagher to hire Gehring to lead growth management and bring Pasco into the 21st century. Once again, ULI members will crisscross Pasco to gather information and speak with "stakeholders." They will submit a draft report within 30 days after they leave and the full report within 90 days. The September 2008 report prompted county officials to try to redevelop the patchwork of businesses along the U.S. 19 corridor. Market areas also emerged from a ULI recommendation in which Pasco County was subdivided into five regions with varying needs. The panel thinks a key to this planning approach is to recognize that the county consists of unmistakably different geographic areas and that those areas must have visions, missions and strategies that are tailored to each, according to the conclusion in the 2008 report. "The county (government) must migrate from tedious, ad-hoc, and cumbersome to predictable, orderly and consistent. "The current downturn in the housing sector will rebound and the panel predicts strong growth over the next 20 years."