By KEVIN WIATROWSKI | The Tampa Tribune
Published: January 23, 2011
TRINITY - For 20 years, people living in this corner of Pasco County have filled county coffers with housing impact fees, waiting all the while for the county to spent those fees on a local park.
County officials, meanwhile, have been long on promises and short on action where a Trinity park is concerned.
Residents' smoldering resentment surfaced last summer when commissioners proposed building their $12 million Sportsplex tournament venue on county land in Trinity. The red-shirted men and women who packed a commission meeting spoke with one voice: Give us the park we've been waiting for.
Opponents said Sportsplex's traffic, noise and lighting would disrupt their lives. They never agreed to live next to a tournament site, they said.
Commissioners quickly relented, promising to build Trinity a community park at long last. They moved the Sportsplex project to a new potential home a few miles away on land off Starkey Boulevard — a site that remains tied up in appraisals and negotiations.
Six months after commissioners made their promise to Trinity residents, though, it's unclear how they'll deliver a Trinity park. The plan hit several potholes last week:
•The county's budget for building parks in west Pasco is nearly $7 million in the red. Adding the $1.7 million Trinity Park to the construction list helped tip the budget into deficit. A plan to add $5 million in land to the Sportsplex project did the rest.
•The park must balance the demands of Trinity's retired residents, who live in the gated Heritage Springs community, and the families who live in Foxwood and Champions Club. Retirees want quiet uses, such as walking trails and a dog park. Families want places for their kids to play.
•Building the Trinity park with impact fees could mean yoking it to Sportsplex as an accessory or overflow park, county attorneys told commissioners this week. That would mean making the park a busier place than some Trinity residents want.
Another alternative — building the park with unspent bond review — would give the county more flexibility, but would also reduce the park's budget by about a third. That could mean fewer amenities.
The price of the park has also become a stumbling block.
Commissioner Ann Hildebrand, who worked with Trinity residents to design the park, said she had expected it to cost about one-third of its current budget.
"I thought we had something worked out, then I got sticker shock," Hildebrand said.
Hildebrand said she had in mind the county's recently opened Lake Lisa park in the Embassy Hills section of west Pasco. That park, which cost about $400,000, lacks the tennis, basketball and volleyball courts proposed for Trinity.
Also unlike Lake Lisa, the Trinity park design includes more than 200 parking spaces — many more than residents feel are needed. Hildebrand points out that the 40-acre, five-field Sportsplex would have 300 parking spaces.
Trinity resident Dorothy Stix, one of the community leaders helping design the new park, said it's time to go back to the drawing board. The $1.7 million price tag is "way out of whack," she said.
"We need to discuss all the items," Stix said. "There is nothing in there that is written in stone."