NEW PORT RICHEY — More than 30 years ago, the look of a cookie-cutter subdivision in Land O’ Lakes called Carpenter’s Run helped to land Pasco County on the big screen when the movie Edward Scissorhands was partially filmed there.
Current Pasco leaders want future housing to be more attractive than that as residential growth in master planned developments explodes across the county.
Pasco County commissioners agreed Tuesday on a set of design standards as guidance for such future development. Those rules for subdivisions with small lots will now require house design differences, a limit on the number of homes on small lots with driveways in the front and specific requirements for trees in the front of homes.
In recent years, developers have pitched subdivisions packed with homes on smaller lots. They argue that 40-foot-wide homesites are in demand from new home buyers who don’t want a big yard to maintain. But the smaller sites, while maximizing the use of the land, have also prompted aesthetic concerns.
Over the last several months, Pasco commissioners have frequently talked about their issues with the appearance of some master planned communities. Commission chairperson Kathryn Starkey has brought slides to share what she sees in her district that she said can be done better. The new rules grew from those discussions with an emphasis on improving the look of future housing sites.
Under the rules adopted this week, homes of the same model on 40 and 50-foot lots would have to include three architectural features which are different from those around them. That could include different colors, different materials such as brick, stucco or stone, different arrangements of doors and windows, porches or dormers, gables and eaves, different trim and different ornamental features.
For different models of houses adjacent to one another, monotony is to be avoided, according to the guidelines.
Houses that back up to or face a street should, at the very least, have a reversal of floor plans or changes in material colors. And no more than 20 percent of the garages should protrude more than eight feet beyond the roof line of each home and each of those should contain decorative garage fronts.
Master planned developments now allow 40-foot, single-family homes. The new rules will be that any that include more than 50 percent of housing on 40-foot lots would have a threshold. Lots above that 50 percent threshold be deemed rear-loaded lots and wouldn’t be allowed to have a driveway in the front. The rest of the lots would have to be at least 50 foot wide.
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That rule, according to Pasco’s planning and development director, Nectarios Pittos, would ensure “half of the development will have more green space at the front of their units because the driveways would be in the back.”
A master-planned development can have 100 percent 40-foot-lots but all would have to be rear-loaded, according to the guidelines. All rear-loaded lots in those communities that have alleys will get a break on the impact fees they would pay the county for future transportation improvements.
The new guidelines also include rules about the required number and types of trees both for single-family homes and townhomes. The new rules would limit townhomes to between two and eight units per building so there would be more green space on those townhome lots, county staff said.
Commissioners debated the value of setting the higher standards for homes on lots wider than 40 or 50 feet. Commissioner Ron Oakley argued that home owners are buying more expensive houses on bigger lots and are more likely to already seek more interesting and unique styles.
Starkey said it wouldn’t hurt to include all housing under the more stringent rules since the standards would likely already be met. She wanted to be sure that all future homes had more architectural features making them more attractive. “I don’t think that’s asking too much,” she said. Without any requirement, she said, “somebody will dive to the bottom.”
Commissioner Jack Mariano said that he agreed to the standards for the 40 and 50-foot lots but that “the larger ones are going to be all right” even without the requirement.
The standards, which were developed with input from local land use attorneys and developers, will be reviewed again in six months to assess what has worked and what can be adjusted if needed, Pittos said. The commission also agreed that in the next discussion, they also want to include rules regarding required parking in new developments.