Unfinished Wesley Chapel road connector gets new attention

- A small stretch of road that could connect New Tampa and Wesley Chapel, but has sat undeveloped for nearly a decade, is getting new attention after leaders on both sides of the county line agreed it's time to find a solution.

The piece of road, measuring about 64-feet, sits between Kinnan Street in Hillsborough County and Mansfield Boulevard in Pasco County and has been the center of several negotiations over the years.

Tampa City Councilwoman Lisa Montelione and Pasco County Commissioner Mike Moore are now working on a way to move forward.

"Obviously back in the day, people were only thinking about going to Tampa. Now, people are thinking about coming to Pasco County too," Moore said. "We think it would be beneficial for the entire region."

The situation took an urgent turn in October, when emergency crews had trouble getting to a home on Paddock View Drive in New Tampa.

The homeowner was cooking when the oil caught fire and burned his hand.

"He could have lost his hand," the victim's brother, John Schloeter, said Wednesday.

A neighbor called 911 and first was bounced between Pasco and Hillsborough dispatchers. He waited several minutes and, when emergency crews still had not arrived, he called back.

Eventually, according to Schloeter, a first responder called them for help getting to the home; they were initially coming down Mansfield and were blocked by the dead-end.

"If it was a more serious situation, he probably wouldn't have made it," Schloeter said.

Officials spent parts of nine years trying to agree on who would pay for the development. That stalemate, along with the recession, stalled negotiations.

The October incident jump-started talks again, spear-headed by Moore and Montelione.

One new wrinkle according to Montelione is that M/I Homes, a company building a nearby community, has agreed to take on a large financial burden to develop the road.

"The folks in Pasco County will have an alternative north-south route that they don't have now," the councilwoman said. "The people in Hillsborough County and the City of Tampa who work at Florida Hospital-Wesley Chapel or [want to go] shopping at Wiregrass [Mall]...will have an alternative route to get to those areas."

Some neighbors can't believe it's taken the two local governments this long to move forward.

"I think it's crazy it takes nine years to fix something so small as that," said Rob Kahn, who lives on the New Tampa side.

Moore said there are some residents concerned about a larger traffic volume between Kinnan and Mansfield after the connection is made. He'd like to coordinate two other projects with this one that would also connect roads in Pasco and Hillsborough Counties.

He and Montelione have a meeting set up next month and hope to come to an agreement some time this year.

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