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C.T. Bowen, Pasco Times Columnist

C.T. Bowen

C.T. Bowen has been reporting and writing about the people and politics of Pasco County since moving to Florida in 1987. A native of upstate New York, he lives in Land O' Lakes with his wife, Mary Beth, a public school teacher. They have two sons.

Phone: (813) 435-7306

Email: bowen@tampabay.com

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  1. Pasco doubles tourist tax to finance sports complex

    Tourism

    DADE CITY — Pasco County is doubling its tourist tax to 4 percent to build an indoor sports complex in Wesley Chapel and improve its outdoor boat ramps in west Pasco.

    In a series of six votes Tuesday, commissioners formally approved the higher tax on overnight accommodations; a contract with RADD Sports of Sarasota to operate the $26 million multipurpose sports center; a ground lease with Mainsail Wiregrass Hotel for an adjoining $18.7 million, 128-room Mariott Residence Inn, and changes to the development plans for Wiregrass Ranch, where the sports-tourism complex will be located....

    Pasco County's plan to double its tourist tax on overnight accommodations to 4 percent is intended to help finance a $25 million sports complex in the Wiregrass Ranch area of Wesley Chapel. It  would include a 98,000-quare-foot multipurpose gymnaisium of eight basketball courts and dedicated space for gymnastics, cheerleading and a fitness center. Shown here is the four-court fieldhouse with 50,000-square-feet of space for competitions at  Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex.  Times photo by James Borchuck (2007)
  2. Pasco commission wants SunWest Park to remain in private hands

    Local Government

    DADE CITY — SunWest Park, Pasco's first privately operated public park, will remain in private hands, county commissioners decided Tuesday.

    Though they instructed County Administrator Dan Biles to renegotiate the contract with SunWest Park Inc. and its CEO, Patrick Panakos of Orlando, commissioners also said they wanted the company to continue operating the park.

    Panakos' company has run SunWest Park since it opened in 2015. Last week, county staffers said the company was two years in arrears on its rent payments and other obligations and also had failed to maintain the park as the contract required....

    Pasco commissioners said they wanted SunWest Park Inc CEO Patrick Panakos to continue to operate the county-owned SunWest Park. 

Times staff (2015)
  3. State seeks to sell Hidden Lake preserve in west Pasco

    Environment

    NEW PORT RICHEY — The state has hung a for-sale sign on a 589-acre preserve in suburban west Pasco.

    The property, identified by the Southwest Florida Water Management District as the Hidden Lake acreage, has been in public ownership for more than three decades. It sits at the end of Doe Court, north of Ridge Road, near the Hidden Lake airport and residential community. It features a 48-acre private lake, and the asking price is $852,000....

    The Southwest Florida Water Management District is selling the 589-acre Hidden Lake preserve in west Pasco.  The agency is asking $852,000.
  4. Pharmacy company plans Pasco County location

    Corporate

    ODESSA — Synergy Pharmaceuticals Inc. plans to put some operations in Pasco County and has filed preliminary documents to remodel a vacant building on Gunn Highway into a 14,000-square-foot office building and pharmacy.

    Synergy provides pharmaceutical services to long-term care and assisted-living facilities, does its own compounding of medications, supplies home health equipment and operates a retail pharmacy. Its local operations are on U.S. 19 in Palm Harbor where the company employs 55 people....

    Synergy Pharmaceuticals Inc. has filed preliminary plans for a 14,000-square-foot office and pharmacy on Gunn Highway.
  5. Pasco mulls takeover of SunWest Park

    Local Government

    HUDSON — Pasco County is considering changing operations at the privately operated, but publicly owned, SunWest Park.

    Next week, commissioners will be asked to begin reworking the county's lease with SunWest Park Inc., the company formed by Patrick Panakos of Orlando to run the park and install and operate the wakeboard attraction and other amenities in and around the 70-acre lake west of U.S. 19....

    Pasco County is considering changing its lease with private operator SunWest Park Inc. two years after the county-owned park in Hudson opened to the public. Under one option, the private company could still run the wakeboard park and other water-based attractions while the county takes over the beach park and public swimming area. [Times Staff (2015)]
  6. At Home eyes Pasco County's Cypress Creek Town Center for new superstore

    Retail

    Texas-based home décor superstore At Home is planning its first outlet in the Tampa Bay area in the Cypress Creek Town Center shopping complex in Pasco County.

    The company boasts of offering consumers an inventory of 50,000 home décor items from furniture and rugs to wall art, housewares and seasonal items.

    Preliminary plans filed with Pasco County show At Home occupying a 108,490-square-foot store on Grand Cypress Drive, on the south side of State Road 56 near the southern extension of Wesley Chapel Boulevard. That puts it on the same side of the highway as the Tampa Premium Outlets mall and Costco....

    At Home, the home decor superstore, has filed preliminary plans to open a 108,000-square-foot store in the Cypress Creek Town Center complex in Pasco County. 
[Company website]
  7. Sun West landowners trade wrongful conduct charges

    Business

    Sun West Acquisition Corp. president John G. "Gary'' Grubbs — Pasco County's partner in a proposed channel dredge near Aripeka — used the company as "his own personal piggy bank'' and improperly spent more than $1.6 million of corporate money supporting his lifestyle and covering unrelated business expenses, a minority partner charges in a lawsuit.

    Denise Taglia of Palm Harbor sued Grubbs and Sun West Acquisition on June 7 in Pasco Circuit Court, accusing Grubbs of breaching his fiduciary duties and unjust enrichment. She is asking the court to appoint a receiver to oversee the company. Otherwise, the lawsuit said, Sun West's "assets will be subject to continued loss, waste and destruction by Grubbs' ongoing wrongful actions.'' ...

    The hoganlawfirm.com website displays an image of lawyer Tom Hogan. John G. "Gary'' Grubbs of Sun West Acquisiton is suing Hogan, his wife and their law firm and accountant R. Victor Taglia , contending malpractice, conspiracy and diverting "millions of dollars of undocumented management fees, legal fees and other expenses'' from Grubbs in a "pattern of self-dealing for the benefit of Taglia, and Hogan, and their respective trusts.''
 Photo by hoganlawfirm.com
  8. Controversial landfill site could be rechristened as industrial recruiting land in Pasco

    Economic Development

    The east Pasco property of Angelo's Aggregate Materials, which failed to obtain a state environmental permit to be developed as a garbage landfill, is being studied as a potential 1,000-acre mega site for industrial recruitment.

    "There are no mega sites of that size in Florida right now. This puts us clearly on the map,'' Bill Cronin, president/CEO of the Pasco Economic Development Council, told county commissioners earlier this month....

  9. Bowen: Crossing arms, not trains, block traffic in central Pasco

    Roads

    Railroad traffic through Land O'Lakes and Lutz periodically interrupts cars and trucks trying to get through one of the busiest intersections in Pasco County — the crossroads of U.S. 41 and State Road 54.

    It actually averages less than one freight train per day, according to CSX.

    That shouldn't pose too terrible of an inconvenience for motorists.

    The crossing gates stopping cars from entering the intersection are another story....

    OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times 
The CSX railroad gates at U.S. 41 and State Road 54 in central Pasco have malfunctioned 18 times over the past 12 months, according to Pasco Sheiffi's Office reports, blocking vehicle traffic even though no train is coming.
  10. Pasco County backs industrial spec space with $7 million loan

    Economic Development

    ODESSA — Graham Mavar said he first looked around Pasco County seven years ago for a suitable place to develop a high-end employment center.

    "Industrial likes to go next to industrial, but somebody's got to go first. That's always the biggest challenge," said Mavar, a partner in the Tampa-based commercial real estate development firm Harrod Properties.

    The company finally settled on a location — the Asturia development north of State Road 54 and west of the Suncoast Parkway — and now is partnering with Pasco County on a $26 million project to develop two roads and up to 200,000 square feet of Class A spec space for office/industrial use....

    Bill Cronin of the Pasco Economic Development Council touts the need for Class A office space.
  11. Pasco commission OKs Quail Hollow golf course conversion

    Local Government

    DADE CITY — A Wesley Chapel golf course can be bulldozed for 389 homes, Pasco County commissioners ruled Tuesday.

    On a 4-1 vote, with Chairman Mike Moore dissenting, commissioners decided a long-delayed rezoning issue by allowing the owner of Quail Hollow Golf & Country Club to swap fairways for driveways.

    The decision came as dozens of objecting neighbors sat wearing green shirts adorned with green stickers and yellow lettering that parroted the county's marketing slogan, "Open spaces, vibrant places.''...

    The Quail Hollow Golf and Country Club owner asked for permission to turn the golf course into a development.
  12. Two new restaurants to join Cypress Creek Town Center

    Business

    Florida's nearly 39,000 restaurants are projected to do $41.7 billion in sales this year, according to the National Restaurant Association. And the appetite for eating out is showing up in a big way at the Cypress Creek Town Center development that traverses State Road 56 just west of Interstate 75.

    The initial retail center on the northern portion of the development will include both Mellow Mushroom pizza and Chuy's Tex-Mex restaurants, according to Pasco County building permit records....

    Mellow Mushroom, which features stone-baked pizzas, will be one of the new tenants in a retail center under construction in the Cypress Creek Town Center that traverses State Road 56.
  13. County, builders reach compromise on impact fee increase for Pasco schools

    Education

    DADE CITY — The monthslong back and forth over how to pay for new schools took a timeout Tuesday after the Pasco County School District, the Tampa Bay Builders Association and the county's legal staff negotiated a three-year, $3,500 increase in the charge for new single-family homes.

    The accord, reached on the eve of a County Commission public hearing on the impact fee ordinance, prompted the commission to delay its final vote until August to meet legal advertising requirements....

    “We didn’t get everything we wanted, but neither did the builders.”
Ray Gadd, deputy superintendent
  14. Budget windfall allows Pasco to end beach parking fee

    Local Government

    DADE CITY — It's no longer going to cost $2 to visit Pasco County's beaches.

    On Tuesday, commissioners agreed to spend a portion of a $3 million budget windfall by ending the parking fee at nine coastal and wilderness parks. Commissioners left in place the $5 charge to park boat trailers at the county's boat ramps.

    The elimination of the parking fees does not apply to the privately operated SunWest Park near Aripeka....

    Pasco commisssioners agreed Tuesday to kill the $2 fee to park at county coastal and wilderness parks that has been in place since 2010. The $5 fee to park at the county's boat ramps will remain in place. The change is effective at the start of the new fiiscal year Oct. 1.
Times staff (2016).
  15. Kelly Smith to challenge Pasco Commissioner Mike Moore

    Blog

    Kelly Smith, 42, of Wesley Chapel, a child advocate and a former government zoning administrator, is seeking the District 2 Pasco County Commission seat held by incumbent Republican Mike Moore.

    Smith, a Democrat, moved to the county in 2008 from Naples. She said the 2016 national election inspired her candidacy.

    “Just as it did for many Americans, the 2016 election outcome sparked my desire to become more involved in politics. Those elected to represent us no longer reflect a variety of viewpoints or experiences. I also don’t see many elected officials operating from the basic belief that it is their responsibility to care about all people and to make decisions that improve the quality of life for everyone,’’ she said in a released statement. “I was raised to believe that you can’t complain if you’re not willing to work towards a solution. With that, I couldn’t sit by and not get involved.”...