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Where’s the new VA clinic going? Not in the city of New Port Richey

NEW PORT RICHEY — The federal government’s search for a home for its new Veterans Administration community outpatient clinic is focusing on the Little Road corridor in west Pasco.

Three locations in the running for the VA clinic are identified in the just-released draft environmental assessment that found "no significant adverse environmental impact’’ from the planned construction of a 114,000-square-foot complex to serve veterans and their families.

The three sites are less than a mile apart and all border Little Road. They are:

• 24.4 acres at the northwest corner of Little Road and Massachusetts Avenue. The land, a former pine tree farm, is owned by the three limited liability corporations controlled by the Harvey family of Tampa.

• 17 acres at the southeast corner of Ross Lane and Little Road, owned by Ross Lane LLC of Tampa. It is part of a 26-acre parcel that had been for sale with a listing price of $4.9 million.

• 27 acres on the north side of Ross Lane, directly across the street from the other site. It is south of a Wendy’s restaurant and east of the gated community of Crescent Forest. A one-time citrus grove, it is owned by Citrico Alliance LLC of Fort Myers.

In 2014, Congress approved and President Obama signed a legislative package to improve access to health care for the nation’s veterans, included funding for 27 new or expanded clinics. The supporters included U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor. Pasco, the only Florida site in the legislation, received $11 million.

The new outpatient clinic is intended to consolidate health care services now dispersed among five locations, including an outpatient clinic at 9912 Little Road, north of the proposed sites. That leased location includes a 46,000-square-foot building on eight acres. Built in 2000, it sold for $8.59 million seven years ago.

The owners of 15 properties pitched their locations to the VA in 2017, including the city of New Port Richey and E2L Real Estate Solutions of Winter Park. They had hoped to redevelop the HCA-owned Community Hospital site on Marine Parkway into the clinic. The VA rejected that submittal 10 months ago because it failed to meet the $100,000 bid bond requirement.

"Unfortunately,’’ said Mayor Rob Marlowe, "because I thought it was the obvious site for a consolidated VA center. It was easily accessible to U.S. 19.’’

Five potential sites did meet the VA’s advertised criteria, but the list dwindled to three after the backer of two sites, both south of State Road 54 in the Trinity area, withdrew from consideration. Both of those properties, one adjacent to Trinity Medical Center and the other near the intersection of Starkey Boulevard, are owned by companies controlled by Dewey Mitchell.

Realtor Mark Swartsel, who has the listing on the property owned by Ross Lane LLC, said C&SD Construction Co. of San Diego has a purchase contract on the land. The company, he said, is well-versed in doing construction with lease-back options for government entities — the VA’s preferred development method for the proposed clinic.

"In this case, they (C&SD) looked all over the west Pasco County area and zeroed in on this for what they felt was best site for this use,’’ said Swartsel, "and we agree with them.

The VA is accepting public comment on the draft environmental analysis until July 10. It can be viewed at the New Port Richey Library, 5939 Main St. The document did not specify when a final decision will be made, but said the VA expects construction to begin in 2019 and the clinic to be operational by 2021.

Reach C.T. Bowen at [email protected] or (813) 435-7306. Follow @CTBowen2

RELATED: VA adds New Port Richey to search area.

RELATED: Meeting to identify VA clinic sites.

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