Commissioners Approve Zoning Change for First Responders and Veterans Community | News
DADE CITY — Matthew Mahoney left the Pasco County Commission meeting on June 8 with a big smile on his face.
The New Yorker is the executive vice president of the Steven Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, and commissioners voted unanimously to approve a zoning change that will allow the organization to build what he calls the village “Let Us Do Good” of 103 homes on 74 acres in Land O’Lakes.
“I’m very happy,” he said. “We will build the first community of its kind in the country, anywhere, to serve these families. These are people who, as a family unit, have given their all for their city, their state and their country.
The location is south of Parkway Drive and east of Ehren Cutoff in District 2.
Directly west of the proposed development is the Panther Run community, and west of Panther Run is the Baldomero Lopez State Veterans Hospital.
The Pasco Planning Commission recommended Mahoney’s application be denied based on feedback from neighboring Panther Run residents and concerns that the developer could sell homes to anyone, not the promised residents: Families first responders killed on duty during the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks; the families of soldiers killed in action in the wars that followed; and disabled veterans and their families.
The foundation is named after a New York firefighter who died in the September 11 attacks. He has built homes across the country for veterans, who receive them for free, and paid off mortgages for the families of deceased first responders.
The group chose Pasco County as the location of a community for its three programs: the Gold Star Family Home Program, the Smart Home Program and the Fallen First Responder Home Program.
“Although the Foundation has built homes on individual lots for these programs, this rezoning site is the first community the Foundation plans to build,” the organization said in the agenda filing.
In an effort to gain approval, the foundation proposed three deed restrictions:
• A requirement to install a 6 foot fence along the southern boundary of the project adjacent to lots in the Dupree Lakes Subdivision.
• Limit the project to a maximum of nine lots where the rezoning site is adjacent to the Panther Run Subdivision. This overhaul dramatically reduces the number of lots adjacent to Panther Run from the original 22 lots to nine lots, a 60% reduction in the number of lots.
• Requirement of a minimum of six 100-foot-wide lots with one-story houses.
Mahoney remembers the events of September 11 well. He was an aide to then-New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and believes the nation owes a debt of gratitude to the first responders, troops and their families who paid the price to keep the nation safe.
Mahoney said the community would be a base of support for families and veterans who have had similar experiences with sacrifice. Homes would be designed with people in mind. For example, homes for disabled veterans would have one floor and homes for families with children would have four or more bedrooms.
Panther Run resident Trinna Van Nostrand came to the meeting to oppose the project.
“I just don’t see where other developers can get high density for building homes,” she said. “I appreciate what they are doing, but I still think it should stick to the medium density rural area.”
“We really wanted some sort of deed restriction so they couldn’t just turn around and sell it to a developer, so it would stay what it was supposed to be,” said Van Nostrand, who sounded resigned. that the new community will be built, but added that she did not trust the developers’ promises about the future use of the land.
Other Panther Run residents showed their support, and Mahoney assured them that his goal was to build a neighborhood that would fit in with their community.
There will be a groundbreaking ceremony soon, Mahoney said.
The development will be in Commissioner Mike Moore’s District 2, and he said he was happy to see it approved.
“They do amazing things,” he said. “We are very grateful that they decided to choose us.”
Moore said he was impressed with how the homes are designed around the needs of injured first responders and veterans, including the height of showers and cabinets.
District 3 Commissioner Kathryn Starkey, whose daughter and son-in-law attended the Air Force Academy and currently serve in the Air Force, was also pleased with the outcome.
“I’m very, very grateful that the foundation has chosen our county to do their good deed here and are working with the neighbors to address some of their concerns,” she said.