Hillsborough County commissioner Ken Hagan says the infamous 50-foot space between Kinnan St. in New Tampa and Mansfield Blvd. in Pasco County needs to be connected.
So, at the Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) meeting on Feb. 21, Hagan put forth a motion directing the county attorney’s office to look into all possibilities, which passed by a unanimous vote.
“We are directing the (attorneys) to explore all legal options, including eminent domain, to force the connection to be made,” Hagan says.
The county is taking a hard look at records from the Pasco and Hillsborough Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) for Transportation, the City of Tampa and M/I Homes, the developer of K-Bar Ranch, to determine what agreements are in place.
According to Hagan, the Kinnan-Mansfield connection was already approved in the original developer’s agreements for K-Bar Ranch.
“Basically, and I’ve said it before, the original agreement was once the road to Wiregrass was opened, then Pasco County would connect Kinnan-Mansfield,” Hagan says. “It is absolutely absurd the roads aren’t connected.”
Hagan says the county’s attorneys also will be looking for similar cases involving disputes between two counties, to see if there are any precedents for legal action, including eminent domain, to force the issue.
Hagan says the connection of the roads will provide a north-south alternative to Bruce B. Downs (BBD) Blvd. that would provide for both counties, as well as benefit the public good, he adds, by improving police and fire response times and relieving congestion.
Once the attorneys complete their research, a course of action will be presented to the BOCC for a vote. Hagan is confident he has the commission votes to pursue any recommendation, considering that the Hillsborough County Commission unanimously approved his motion to explore legal action, as well as a vote in September 2017 to put $250,000 towards funding a potential connection.
“Nothing will ever get done, I’m convinced,” Hagan says. “It’s not the money, right?”
Hagan believes the fear of political backlash from Meadow Pointe (especially Meadow Pointe II & III) residents who live near the proposed connection, many who are opposed to it cite safety concerns, which has stalled the efforts by Pasco County to make a decision.
Pasco’s District 2 commissioner Mike Moore, whose district includes all of Meadow Pointe, scoffs at Hagan’s notion. He says the county is still waiting for the results of the Pasco Roadway Connections study to determine whether or not the connection should be made, and if there might be better connection points, including one between Meadow Pointe Blvd. and K-Bar Ranch Blvd., a planned east-west road currently under construction in K-Bar Ranch.
Any talk of eminent domain, Moore says, is “ridiculous.”
That connections study, though, was announced in May and, at the time, Moore said he expected it would take 6-7 months, or by the end of 2017.
“Now we’re in March (of 2018) and I’m hearing it could be May or June,” Hagan says. “It seems they (Pasco) are looking for any reason not to make this connection.”
The Political Football
Moore is running for re-election this year, which Hagan suggests is paralyzing the commissioner from taking swifter action. “Pasco County residents use our parks, our libraries, and they preach connectivity between the counties,” Hagan says. “There’s no valid reason not to make the connection other than fear of political fallout.”
To be fair, Hagan also will be busy this upcoming election season. Currently the countywide District 5 commissioner, Hagan is running for his original District 2 seat that represents New Tampa, where residents generally seem in favor of a connected for Kinnan-Mansfield.
But, as a former New Tampa resident and the District 2 commissioner from 2002-10,, Hagan says the Kinnan-Mansfield conundrum is a long-standing issue that he has been trying to resolve for years.
“There’s always going to be another excuse, whether its an election or a transportation study,” He says. “There’s always another reason (for Pasco) not to move forward.”