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Friday, Jun 22, 2018
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Hercules land restriction myth uncovered

— Critics of a plan to rezone the Hercules Park property have cited a long-held belief that the land was donated to the Pasco County school district under the stipulation that it be used for recreational or educational purposes.

Claims that the former owners of the property, Hercules Powder Co., had donated the land to the school board under those requirements are not accurate, records show.

The school board is expected to submit the petition soon to ask that the city change the zoning and land use from recreational to commercial with the purpose of selling about 2.5 acres for a business. The acreage is on the corner of the property at U.S. 301 and County Road 54.

The school board would then lease the remaining 12.5 acres to the city to operate a park.

In April, the Zephyrhills City Council unanimously voted to pursue negotiations with the school board to lease the property. A lease of 100 years for $1 a year has been discussed. The council’s vote came with the understanding that the 2.5 acres would be sold for commercial use.

The Hercules company produced resin and turpentine, and the land was used for employee housing.

Zephyrhills City Attorney Joe Poblick said he expects opposition to the plan based on the inaccurate information regarding the land’s use.

The claims regarding the park’s use date back to at least August 1985. An earlier petition by the school board to rezone the property came before a city planning commission meeting that year.

At the meeting, Zephyrhills resident Libby Winslow said that the intent of the Hercules Powder Co. when selling the land to the school board was that it be maintained for the children of Zephyrhills, according to articles in the Zephyrhills News.

Winslow said at the time that the company’s intent for the land’s use was not binding legally. The planning commission did not recommend rezoning, and the city council also refused the request.

Ted Williams, who served on the school board in 1985, said there was no such stipulation on the property. Williams, who lives in Dade City, said the claims of an agreement are false. He also said that selling the remaining property after building Zephyrhills High School had been a possibility from the beginning. The land is adjacent to the high school.

Williams’ recollections are confirmed by additional research in the newspaper’s microfiche records.

In February 1963, the school board began looking at an option to purchase the Hercules property from the company.

“The Pasco County Board of Public Instruction,” reported the paper, “has expressed an interest to purchase the Hercules camp site location as a very desirable site for a new school, and Hercules is now offering the board first option to purchase the property.”

On May 14, 1963, the school board voted to take the option and pay $60,000 for the 80-acre property valued at $120,000. There is no mention regarding stipulations of its use.

Poblick, who has seen deeds and other documents, said: “I have never seen anything that restricts anything on that property.”

“Hercules Powder Company was a big company,” Poblick said. “If they wanted to place restrictions on it, they could have.”

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