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Wednesday, May 23, 2018
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Can New Tampa handle nearly 700 more homes? Not without major changes, council member says

TAMPA — New Tampa was built on sprawl.

Big houses, often in gated communities with lots of green space, are the operating principle for developing the area Tampa annexed in pieces starting in the mid 1980s.

But residents who love the good schools and pastoral setting are increasingly frustrated by traffic. Some worry about being able to get to a hospital in an emergency.

And now a massive new development plan is making its way through the City Council that would put nearly 700 homes in the K-Bar ranch subdivision in New Tampa’s northeastern tip. That has the area’s council member raising his voice in protest.

"I have a problem with this because I think of lot of it is based on wishful thinking," Luis Viera said at a recent meeting.

The magical thinking? That Tampa and Pasco County will agree any time soon to open a road linking K-Bar Ranch to Wesley Chapel.

Connecting Kinnan Street to Mansfield Boulevard over the Pasco County line has been a stalemate of long standing between Tampa and Pasco. The two roads are currently separated by a tiny strip of grassy land. The sparring has lasted more than a decade. Expecting a resolution to the standoff any time soon, Viera said, is like believing "in the second coming of Elvis."

Pasco County is conducting a study to determine if Kinnan-Mansfield should be connected. That study should be finalized this summer and then presented with a recommendation to the county’s Metropolitan Planning Organization in September.

But Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn isn’t holding his breath.

"That has been a long-standing issue, a long-standing bone of contention. Pasco has not been inclined to work with us on that, which doesn’t make any sense at all. That would relieve a lot of the pressure in that area," he said.

That’s not how Pasco County Commissioner Mike Moore sees it. Tampa was the party that cut off talks several years ago, he said.

At one time, Pasco County residents did most of their shopping in New Tampa and were more open to connectors with northern Hillsborough County, he said. But with the opening of the Shops at Wiregrass nearly a decade ago, Pasco residents don’t need the connector as much.

"The tide has changed now. Things have changed," Moore said. He said he’ll wait for the study before making up his mind but emphasized that his constituents’ feelings on the issue are what is important to him. And they aren’t clamoring for the connector.

The attorney representing M/I Homes, the developer, said the agreement with the city on the 434 acres to the west of Morris Bridge Road included road improvements on K-Bar Ranch Parkway. She says the project will help break the standoff over Kinnan-Mansfield.

"We’re your leverage," Donna J. Feldman told council members. "If you don’t approve us, you’ll never get Kinnan."

Council members voted 5-1 on April 12 to advance the project to a final reading on May 3. Viera was the lone vote against.

Meanwhile, K-Bar Ranch residents continue to stew in traffic. Craig Margelowsky, the president of Heron Preserve, the northernmost subdivision in K-Bar, said residents already need a faster route to Florida Hospital and the Shops at Wiregrass. Several hundred new homes will only lengthen the drive to Pasco, he said.

"We’re all resigned to the fact that the homes will be built eventually. K-Bar Ranch is a nice place to live. I bought here for a reason," said Margelowsky, 35, who says he lives in the northernmost home in Hillsborough County. "They need to open those roads so people can go where they need to go."

Contact Charlie Frago at [email protected] or (727)893-8459. [email protected]

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