After two readings and one continuance, the Tampa City Council has approved a rezoning that will pave the way for developer M/I homes to build 698 new homes in K-Bar Ranch.
The growth of the soon-to-be burgeoning community, located north of Cross Creek Blvd. in the northeasternmost part of New Tampa, has been a point of some public debate, due to the lack of infrastructure, namely roads, in the area.
But, only councilman Luis Viera, who represents District 7, which includes all of the neighborhoods within Tampa’s city limits in New Tampa — including K-Bar Ranch — was the only vote against the rezoning approved by the council (by a 6-1 vote on June 28) to allow the new homes to be built in K-Bar.
As it is with any zoning matters, Viera is not allowed to comment on the case for 30 days following the vote.
More homes means more cars, and currently, the only way in and out of K-Bar Ranch is Kinnan St., which runs north and south, or Basset Creek Dr., a two-lane road that runs past Pride Elementary before connecting to Kinnan.
Hillsborough County and the City of Tampa are still pursuing connections north into Pasco County at three different points to help relieve congestion, and K-Bar Ranch Pkwy., an east-west road which is connected to Kinnan St., is still under construction and will provide a path out via Morris Bridge Rd., but not until late 2019 at the earliest.
There was very little discussion amongst the City Council members before the vote, and no one from the public spoke.
Craig Margelowsky, the president of the Heron Preserve neighborhood in K-Bar Ranch and an opponent of adding more homes in his community without more roads, attended the May meeting but was unable to attend on June 28. He says he was disappointed with the decision, but not surprised.
Margelowsky says that he is concerned that by passing the rezoning request, the City of Tampa gave away any leverage it might have had in securing connections with Pasco County. If the rezoning was conditional upon new roads, government officials, as well M/I Homes, would be more pressed to find quicker solutions.
“This took away all the expediency,” Margelowsky says.
However, the City Council had little choice but to okay the rezoning, says Melanie Calloway, the senior transportation planning engineer for Tampa, in order to guarantee the connection of K-Bar Ranch Pkwy.
Calloway cited House Bill 7207, or the Community Planning Act, passed in 2011 and signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott, which handcuffed local governments from imposing what was once state-required concurrency for transportation, parks and schools. The bill allows developers to build without making improvements on over-capacity or failing roadways, which aren’t considered when performing traffic analyses.
Calloway says the City of Tampa can’t legally require M/I Homes to make the connections, but are encouraging them to work with Pasco County, which M/I Homes says it is continuing to do so.
“I think there is more interest in making those connections than there has been,” said K-Bar Ranch attorney Donna Feldman. “I think, in time, they will occur.”
Feldman also said that at the Wesley Chapel Roadways presentation on May 29, it was shown that the majority of those on the Pasco side wanted connections.
However, that “majority” was only true for two of three potential connections — at Meadow Pointe Blvd. & K-Bar Ranch Pkwy., and Wyndfields Blvd. at K-Bar Ranch Pkwy.
No indication has been given that there is enough support for the most convenient, controversial and contentious connection — between Kinnan St. and Mansfield Blvd. in Meadow Pointe. Pasco County District 2 commissioner Mike Moore, who represents the area, is on record as being adamantly opposed to it. He has suggested the Pasco Board of Commissioners (BOC) may not even vote on the connections until next year.
While Moore favors only two of the three connections, the City of Tampa feels that all three connections need to be made.
But, Margelowsky isn’t convinced the Tampa City Council will hold firm on that stance. “Without requiring roads (before passing the rezoning), now Pasco County can sit on this for five years,” he said. “I know that the Wyndfields and Meadow Pointe Blvd. connections will get done, but I don’t see anybody going and actually fighting for Kinnan-Mansfield.”
Connections or no connections, Feldman said the rezoning needed to be approved. The 2,280 acres of K-Bar Ranch was annexed into Tampa in 2002 to “grow the wealth, size and import of the City of Tampa, and the City of Tampa has done that,” she said.
She said the land-use entitlements allow for far more density than what was allowed for in a 2015 rezoning of the area.
The current rezoning is for a northwest portion of land adjacent to Kinnan St., and a northeast portion of K-Bar Ranch adjacent to Morris Bridge Rd. The rest, Feldman says, already has been rezoned.
Feldman told council members that M/I Homes has done its part. The financial impact of building K-Bar Ranch Pkwy is $18.8-million, and she said that M/I Homes also donated 60 acres of K-Bar Ranch land to the city for a park, which also was more than required.
“This project, as a whole, has been mitigated over and above what is necessary to accommodate this rezoning, which really started with the annexation of this project in the early 2000s,” Feldman said as she asked the council for approval.
K-Bar already has roughly 500 homes and townhomes already built, with another 700 or so approved in 2015 — despite similar protests from residents then about a lack infrastructure and roads — that currently are under construction. The new rezoning will add nearly 700 more homes to the community, bringing the total to nearly 1,900.