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Zephyrhills hopes to preserve 'small town America' with rapid growth

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Posted at 5:10 AM, Jul 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-08 12:22:17-04

ZEPHYRHILLS, Fla. — Driving in Zephyrhills, you can look to your left and see endless greenery and then to your right there are new housing communities going up one after another with homes selling before they’re even built.

“In 1950, we had orange groves. We used to love to see when the blossoms came out. The whole area just smelt of orange blossoms, it was just beautiful. And now we've got homes instead,” said resident Bob Winters, who was born and raised in Zephyrhills.

“Been here all my life,” he said. “My business was a mobile home business. And I've done six years in government, been a police officer, firefighter, had a family, enjoy living here. It's a great place.”

Winters is one of 20,000 residents in Pasco’s largest city, about 3,000 more than five years ago, according to Census data.

“The great thing about Zephyrhills is we're in this region that's experiencing so much growth and then we're like the small-town America,” said Rodney Corriveau, Senior Planner with the Zephyrhills Planning Department.

He explains that it's a balancing act between the people moving there and those that have lived there.

“We've got a lot of price appreciation in homes and people are feeling that, from a standpoint of homeownership. We have a lot of people that are struggling right now to be able to afford a home that was once just a couple of years ago, $200,000, now is $300, $350,000,” he said.

Zephyrhills currently has 2,700 new homes in the pipeline within the next couple of years, many of which are single-family attached townhomes.

“We have a lot of these smaller parcels of land within the city that basically would be infill. So what we're working with, with developers to do, single-family attached. That naturally reduces the price of the home, not with government intervention, but from the market side,” Corriveau explained.

The Zephyrhills City Manager Billy Poe said the challenge moving forward is “ smart growth,” working with the county to expand roads and make sure there are homes for middle to low-income families.

“If we don't grow, we're, you know, we're going to kind of wilt away,” Poe exclaimed. “We see the development, we know it's coming, you know, you're not going to stop it. But we try to offset that with that community feel that people enjoy.”

Winter adds that he knew it was only a matter of time.

“All of my life, we talked about growth in Zephyrhills. We knew it was coming because it's a wonderful place to live. And finally, it's here, but a wonderful place to live so you put up with it.”

Right now, the planning department is asking for community input to develop their next comprehensive plan.

You can comment on their website here.