The 2014 Pasco County parks and tourism capital budget proposed by the county commission contains a $3.7 million expense that concerns local residents. The budget calls for utilizing parks and recreation impact fees to construct a frontage road that would lead to the Fields At Wiregrass, a proposed sports tourism project that will be built on 138 acres in Wesley Chapel using revenue from Pasco’s tax on hotel rooms and other short-term accommodations.
Although many county officials and citizens are eager to move forward with a dedicated sports tourism project, parks impact fee dollars for facilities may only be used for the construction of public parks facilities. A $3.7 million frontage road that leads to a private sports tourism park with current plans for only baseball/softball fields is an expensive misappropriation of important taxpayer dollars that will ignore the needs and concerns of local residents.
By allocating parks impact fee dollars to fund a road for a private sports tourism complex, the proposed 2014 budget fails to address a critical shortage in fields within the growing Wesley Chapel corridor. For the past several years overcrowding of practice and game fields at the Wesley Chapel District Park has led to unsafe playing conditions that increase the likelihood of injury to athletes and spectators alike.
In addition, the proposed budget creates an $840,000 negative balance in the central zone parks impact fee facilities fund. If the 2014 budget is passed in its current form, the deficit will take 3/12 years to recuperate. This is far too long of a time frame to provide for the current and future needs of this community, and it will do a great disservice to residents of central Pasco County.
County staff and elected officials should consider alternative proposals with a balanced approach to both parks and tourism that better meet the needs of our residents.