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Students advocate for sustainable development in protection of the lake News

LAND O’LAKES — Students with a passion for making a difference are calling out to the Pasco County Planning Commission on Sept. 1 about making future development on Hale Road more sustainable.

Lilly Xu, president of the Scientific Journal Club at Land O’Lakes High School, and club members Ajinkya Bhardwaj, Mackenzie Ivancic, Rashid Shanvas and Lana Almukhtar have been researching local lakes and the impact development has on them.

The club believes further evaluation and consideration is needed against construction by KB Homes at Hale Road at the junction of Hale Road and Collier Parkway due to environmental concerns. Development is being planned next to the Rosebud Continuum Ecological Science and Sustainability Education Center, where the students have been studying a 10-acre lake that has been recorded on historical maps since the 1800s.

“Retention ponds are far less sustainable in comparison to preserving this natural lake,” Xu said. “Furthermore, as you can see around here, there are a lot of trees and it’s a very connected and sustained ecosystem. Knowing the history of the lake and the science, we’re more inclined to protect it. There are so many endangered species that live around here. Small shifts in its environment will greatly impact them and that’s something that needs more research.”

Xu added, “We can’t say for confidence we know what development will cause to this lake but from what we’ve foreseen in research, we think it needs to be taken into far greater consideration.”

Xu and her club members began researching the lake at Rosebud Continuum at the beginning of the 2021-22 school year. Together, they shared the same chemistry and biology classes where they learned how species, invasive and non-invasive, interact in an ecosystem and how to test water quality. Over the summer, they began testing lake water at five local lakes to compare the results to the one at Rosebud.

The Scientific Journal Club held a letter writing campaign to the county commissioners to ask them to take the environment around the lake into consideration before moving forward with KB Homes. The club plans to spend the year getting more students involved so when the majority of members graduate next year, others can keep studying the effects of development on the lake.

“I think there’s also concerns that they’re interested in putting in retention ponds but they’re not natural, they’re designed to a point to help alleviate the problem,” Ivancic said. “Eventually they will also overflow or drain into other areas, especially when they’re close to developments. It’s much easier to pick up contaminants and spread that could cause problems to other areas, like this lake where they will foresee potential overflow into.”

The students would like to clarify that they are not against development by KB Homes. They would like to see further evaluation and consideration as urban sprawl, projects requiring land use amendments prior to the comprehensive plan revisions being made, and 40-foot wide lots are not in compliance with surrounding neighborhoods. The density corridor along interstate routes is where apartment complexes could be properly appropriated.

According to KB Homes engineers, there will be an additional 1,030 cars on Hale Road per day traveling either to Collier Parkway or to US 41, according to Xu.

“In our school, especially in the mornings, traffic gets really, really heavy,” Lana said. “I’ve noticed that the infrastructure, especially in Pasco, I don’t think it’s able to withstand the number of people that are here. Nor are they trying to create new areas and more different buildings, it’s taking over the land and not in the beneficial way we thought it would. It’s hurting the environment itself, which needs to stop.”

Ivancic added, “It’s a great opportunity for a lot of different industries but at the same time, as we attend the schools here and look at the land, it seems like they’re throwing homes right on top of homes that are already there. I know very well that our school can’t stand to handle much more in terms of the traffic. I’ve attended Wiregrass High School too, and I’ve seen the congestion there, the overflow of kids, it’s not exactly plausible. Nor are we adding on to the already existing problems, we are going to be damaging a lot of really amazing places. It would be sad to see it ruined.”

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