The Pasco Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) asked county residents last month to complete an online survey involving the Wesley Chapel Roadways Connections study, which took a detailed look at traffic improvements mostly within Meadow Pointe, as well as three potential connections to the City of Tampa’s New Tampa area.
The survey, which ran from April 1-30, drew more than 2,700 responses, said Pasco County commissioner Mike Moore, whose District 2 includes most of Wesley Chapel.
The online survey asked a handful of simple questions about whether you approved of the following:
• A connection at Mansfield Blvd. in Meadow Pointe and Kinnan St. in K-Bar Ranch.
• A connection at Meadow Pointe Blvd. and the Meadow Pointe Blvd. Extension, which hooks up with K-Bar Ranch Blvd., also in New Tampa’s K-Bar Ranch development
• A connection at Wyndfields Blvd. and the Wyndfields Blvd. Extension, which would connect to both K-Bar Ranch Blvd. and Morris Bridge Rd.
• All three connections.
The survey also asked after each question if the respondent’s answer would be different if all of the improvements identified by Wesley Chapel Roadways Connections are committed to be done prior to, or concurrent with, the connection(s).
Along with looking at the connections, the study identified $13.8-million worth of road improvements in and around Meadow Pointe, such as repaving and widening roads, making intersections safer and improving traffic signals.
In anticipation of the results and because the Pasco side has dominated the debate over the proposed roadway connections, District 7 Tampa City Council member Luis Viera, who represents those in K-Bar Ranch and the rest of New Tampa, held a forum in April at Cypress Pointe Community Church to discuss the thorniest of the proposed connections: Kinnan-Mansfield, where a 20-foot stretch of dirt and shrubs is all that stands in the way of linking the two roads.
Roughly 40 people attended the meeting, along with the city of Tampa’s administrator of economic opportunity Bob McDonaugh, who has negotiated on the city’s behalf with Pasco’s MPO regarding the Kinnan-Mansfield connection.
McDonaugh lamented that despite negotiating with Pasco County for years, a deal has never been struck, even though he says promises were made by Pasco officials to connect the roads years ago.
“I wanted to get some ideas from you and would like to hear what’s important,” McDonaugh said at the meeting at Cypress Point. “I’m certainly willing to go back to the table and bring our legal staff and transportation people.”
However, McDonaugh admitted that the Wesley Chapel side has been very well entrenched, and has the support of Moore and other county commissioners as well.
“People on the other side like the idea of living on a dead-end street,” he said. “Not in my backyard, they say, and they are very vocal.”
Their were few new ideas put forth, as the smattering of New Tampa residents took turns expressing their frustration. One resident likened the debate with Wesley Chapel to negotiating with a hostage taker; others suggested taking their concerns to the state legislature.
And, K-Bar Ranch resident Cindy Gustavel even echoed what Wesley Chapel residents have argued — stop building homes in K-Bar Ranch if the needed connections aren’t made.
Last summer, M/I Homes received City of Tampa approval to build 700 more homes in K-Bar Ranch, where residents are already complaining about having only way out of their community and the difficulty in receiving timely police and fire assistance, or what an evacuation in the case of a major emergency might look like.
“It is irresponsible to keep building houses if we only have one point of egress,” Gustavel said. “It is irresponsible to let M/I Homes keep building homes without proper infrastructure.”
Many in attendance seemed to agree that the hopes of connecting Kinnan and Mansfield are as dim as they have ever been.
“We’re beating our heads against the wall,” said one New Tampa resident, which may have summed up the feelings of the people in the room perfectly.