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July 21,2015 - Pasco commission OKs $261,500 more in consultant costs

By Laura Kinsler | Tribune Staff Laura Kinsler on Google+
Published: May 22, 2015

— Pasco commissioners reluctantly agreed to spend another $261,500 to extend the contract of the Washington, D.C., consulting firm assisting with the permit application for the Ridge Road Extension.

Commissioners last year hired Dawson & Associates at a cost of $512,000 to help break the gridlock with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The county has tried unsuccessfully for the past 14 years to get its approval to extend Ridge Road, which dead ends at Moon Lake Road, by 8 miles to the Suncoast Parkway and later to U.S. 41.

County Administrator Michele Baker said the contract extension would be to “advocate” for the permit during the next phase of the application process. “In order to get this permit, we believe we need Dawson & Associates to be a part of the team,” she said.

Commissioner Kathryn Starkey said she’d rather hire a D.C. lobbyist to usher the permit. “I do think we should have a presence in Washington with a lobbying firm — most of the other counties have that,” she said. “But I was looking for something a little different. This is not the one in my opinion.”

Commissioner Mike Moore said he, too, was losing patience with the repeated requests for funding and urged the firm to finish the work in the next nine months “because it’s going to be very difficult for me to approve any more funds for this.”

The county has spent more than $17 million on permitting and right-of-way for the project, and commissioners have budgeted $46 million to build the first segment, to the Suncoast Parkway, every year since 2006.

Commissioners also approved a rezoning for a new shopping mall and housing development on Mitchell Ranch in Trinity.

Kitson & Partners, a Palm Beach Gardens developer, is under contract to buy 330 acres on the southwest corner of Little Road and State Road 54 from the Mitchell family.

The Mitchells have owned the cattle ranch for generations.

Kitson won approval for nearly a million square feet of retail space and up to 800 housing units. A few highlights include a 12-screen movie theater, a fitness center, department stores, at least 10 restaurants and a town square. The plan also calls for a big-box warehouse store at S.R. 54 and Welbilt Boulevard.

Construction is slated to start with a specialty grocery store scheduled to open by July 2017.

The site plan also shows a wine superstore and sporting goods and home decor big-box stores.

Kitson Vice President Debra Dremann said some of the first tenant names will be released soon. She was at a shopping center convention in Las Vegas earlier this week meeting with retailers. “We’re very close to closing some deals,” she said. “There’s a lot of interest in this project.”

lkinsler@tampatrib.com

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