PASCO COUNTY — Pasco County commissioners are strongly considering a moratorium on multi-family development since the Live Local Act went into effect.
The new law aims to address Florida’s affordable housing crisis by allowing developers to request the rezoning of commercial properties into residential. However, some say the county’s long-term development plans are now facing disruptions.
Leaders with the Pasco County Commission say they are not against affordable housing, but say building them in the wrong location could kill their efforts for job creation.
“These are sites that we've already gone out and made available for industry,” Pasco Economic Development Council president Bill Cronin said.
Cronin points out that they’ve been working for years to get industrial and commercial sites up and running for new businesses to invest in. He says infrastructure for jobs and manufacturing will cost them 20 cents on the dollar.
“We've historically been a bedroom community and it costs a lot more money to serve residential than it does to cost industry and job creation,” Cronin said.
Pasco County commissioner Seth Weightman has raised concerns about the passing of the Live Local Act, which he believes could put the development of affordable housing in jeopardy. One of his worries is the potential for property owners to rezone commercial and mixed-use properties for multi-family use, resulting in losses on their investment.
Under the new law, the owner of a lot on Overpass Road plans to rezone it for an apartment building, which experts say exploits a major loophole in the legislation. Although the goal of the law is to promote affordable housing, this loophole could have unintended consequences.
“Affordability of housing is a great problem everywhere in our state, and we want to be good partners and help them find a solution that folks can afford to live. But, we can't put residential product on sites that are meant for jobs,” Weightman said.
Weightman thinks that the new law enforces a standardized approach that does not consider unique circumstances, thereby leading to an imbalance.
“We are housing rich — and jobs poor which is why we protect these sites,” he said.
The Pasco County commission reports spending over $64 million on the I-75 and Overpass Road interchange, which opened a year ago.
“The taxing ability on a live local project...there's a there's a preemption where the cities and counties won't collect any tax revenue for 30 years and we're still required to provide police and fire and all the services that go into a residential development," Weightman said. "We're about to invest another $25 million in the old Pascoe Road widening and improvements for our next phase. We didn't necessarily plan for hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of new cars coming in there on a residential project. So, the live local act preempts us from our ability to plan.”
Weightman has warned that deals may not go through if businesses are unable to properly plan for the communities they intend to invest in.
Pasco, Hillsborough, and Pinellas counties recently held a meeting to discuss the challenges of the Live Local Act. Commissioner Weightman has stated that they intend to request the legislature amend the law and adopt unique solutions for affordable housing for each county.