The long-simmering debate over whether or not Kinnan St. in New Tampa and Mansfield Blvd. in Wesley Chapel should have the 30-foot gap between the two roads paved over and connected may be on life support.
At least that’s the way it felt on Dec. 13 at the Pasco Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) meeting in Dade City, where there was zero support for connecting the two roads.
It looks like, frankly, it might literally be the end of the road for Kinnan.
With a few dozen Meadow Pointe residents in the audience, the MPO was briefed on the Wesley Chapel Roadways Study — which had been presented to the public in a workshop back in May. The study, while coming to no conclusions, looked at multiple options for connecting Wesley Chapel and New Tampa at the Hillsborough-Pasco county line.
The briefing, delivered by Meghan McKinney of the consulting firm AECOM, was followed by District 2 Pasco County Commissioner Mike Moore delivering what may well be the eulogy for Kinnan-Mansfield.
“Connecting Mansfield and Kinnan makes no sense for Pasco County residents,” Moore said. “It will only help the people in the developments in Hillsborough County just over the border. There are things (Hillsborough County) could have done in the past, like opening up Live Oak (Blvd.), but they got into a battle between Hillsborough and the City of Tampa. They could have opened that up, (but) didn’t do it. Now they want to put the burden on us? Shame on them.”
Moore’s remarks were greeted with loud applause from the residents in attendance, eight of whom signed up to speak to the MPO, which is comprised of the five Pasco commissioners, city council members from Zephyrhills and New Port Richey, and the mayors of Port Richey and Dade City.
Residents told the MPO that opening up Mansfield Blvd. to traffic from New Tampa, namely from new homes in K-Bar Ranch, would be a disaster. The 450-page report, using traffic projections for the year 2040, suggested the connection would add as many as 4,000 cars to Mansfield, a two-lane road — which many in attendance claimed cannot be widened, even though there has never been any proof of that claim presented by county staffers — running north to S.R. 56.
“It would destroy the flavor of the community me and my neighbors bought into…and it would lower property values,” said Michael Kaufman, who also was critical of the City of Tampa’s decision this summer to approve 700 more homes in K-Bar Ranch, which backs up against the southern end of Meadow Pointe.
“They (Tampa) are creating a problem; it’s not up to us to fix it,” he added.
Mansfield Blvd. runs past an elementary, middle and high school, Pasco-Hernando State College and entrances to a handful of Meadow Pointe II communities. The safety of students attending those schools was the concern echoed by most.
“It would be insane,” said Richard Traugt. “I’m against it for safety purposes alone.”
“There is grave concern among Pasco County residents that this would have a severe and negative impact on the quality of life and safety,” said Chris Dillinger. “It is easy to dismiss our fears as whiny and the over-reactive opinion of a small group of residents, but this notion is especially convenient for those would benefit from accessing the short cut through our neighborhood.”
At this point, the debate over Kinnan-Mansfield may no longer raging, but other options to make connections remain viable and even had the lukewarm approval of some of the residents in attendance. Connecting Meadow Pointe Blvd. to K-Bar Ranch Pkwy., as well as Wyndfields Blvd. to K-Bar Ranch Pkwy., or even both, appeared to be palatable choices.
Tampa and Hillsborough County have argued to connect all three.
“I’ve heard nothing positive about Mansfield Blvd. being opened, period,” said Pasco’s Dist. 5 commissioner Jack Mariano. “Connecting to Meadow Pointe Blvd. is the most sensible one. If Hillsborough is blocking that, we’ve got a problem. We need to have a strong discussion with them.”
Mariano joined Moore, Dade City mayor Camille Hernandez and Zephyrhills City council member Lance Smith in siding with the residents in attendance. Pasco commissioners Ron Oakley (District 1) and Kathryn Starkey (District 3) left after the presentation and before public comment, without offering their opinions, and three other MPO members did not attend.
McKinney said Pasco will conduct a public opinion poll in February, with basically yes or no votes on the various connections. A standalone option for making the Kinnan-Mansfield connection will not be on the survey, but it will be included as part of the multiple connections options. Those results will be passed on to the MPO, who will then make a recommendation to Pasco’s commissioners.