NEW PORT RICHEY — Heritage Lakes homeowners didn’t particularly need or want a park in the middle of their neighborhood, but most agreed it was better than the alternative.
Pasco commissioners voted unanimously to buy 41.5 acres on Amazon Drive rather than allow a developer to build the 240 permitted apartments on the site. Homeowners could be assessed $67 a year for 15 years to pay back the debt.
“Although we dislike it, the compromise is a good solution,” homeowner Carl Annalora said. “Especially if the county continues to pursue other funding opportunities and leaves it as a passive park — and I mean no facilities.”
The assessment would have been double the amount, but state Reps. Amanda Murphy and Richard Corcoran were able to secure $1.5 million in state funding in the waning minutes of the legislative session to cover half of the $3 million purchase price. Corcoran said the money was in the 2015 budget, but it was removed on the last day. He asked Murphy, a Democrat, to introduce an amendment to an environmental cleanup bill adding the money back to the state budget.
“It was the very last bill we voted on in the session,” the Trinity Republican said. “It didn’t show up as a line item in the budget, but it’s accounted for.”
As the presumed 2017 House Speaker, Corcoran said he feels confident he’ll be able to get the final installment in next year’s budget without the last-minute drama. “I feel very confident we can secure the final $1.5 million in April so no one has to be assessed,” he said.
A few homeowners objected, saying the tax district was unfair. “You’re using the wrong vehicle to recover costs in this situation,” Cindy Fargo said.
But most supported the district and thanked the commissioners for negotiating the deal with the developer. “When we went into this a couple of years back, I had little or no hope for a resolution,” Marlieta Lassiter said. “This has been a true community effort.”