The Florida Senate budget includes millions to help a housing development in Senate President Wilton Simpson's backyard
The developers of 'Angeline' gave $50,000 to Simpson's political committee in December
The Florida Senate budget includes more than $720 million in spending that would help spur development of a huge housing development in the district of Senate President Wilton Simpson.
Most of that money would be spent in support of a new research building and corporate park being built by the Moffitt Cancer Center – a project that is, in turn, anchoring “Angeline,” a future community of 10,000 homes planned on roughly 6,000 acres of former ranchland in Pasco County, about 30 miles north of Tampa.
Angeline is being developed by Miami-based homebuilding giant Lennar Corp. and Metro Development Group of Tampa, both of which have been generous supporters of Simpson, a Republican who is now running for agriculture commissioner. Records show the two companies gave $25,000 each on the same day to one of Simpson’s political committees, about a month before this year’s legislative session began.
Lennar and Metro have also been substantial donors to Gov. Ron DeSantis, who must ultimately decide which budget projects to support and which to veto.
The money supporting Angeline in the Senate budget includes:
$106 million to build a new four-lane road, five connector roads, a pedestrian overpass, and water, stormwater and sewer infrastructure in and around the Angeline land. The project is identified in the budget as “Pasco County research park infrastructure” – a reference to the corporate park planned by Moffitt, which bought a 775-acre parcel from Lennar in 2020 – though the underlying budget documents also note that the area is “being developed as a live-work-play community to include homes, restaurant and retail space, trail and green space.”
$14 million to complete the extension of major arterial road that will connect the Suncoast Parkway toll road with U.S. Highway 41. A 2018 story in the Tampa Bay Times described the extension of Ridge Road as “a key to successfully developing” the Angeline business park, by putting it within a 25-minute drive of Tampa International Airport.
$7.1 million to build a science, technology, engineering and math-focused combination middle and high school on the Moffitt land. The developers of Angeline are using the planned magnet school as a lure for homebuyers, touting it as a school for “young innovators, explorers and entrepreneurs.”
$20 million this year – and every year for 30 years – to pay for construction of Moffitt’s new buildings in Pasco. This provision is included in a separate budget bill the Senate has proposed (SB 2526), and it’s designed to give Moffitt a dedicated funding source that it can use to sell tax-exempt bonds to finance construction. (This comes one year after Simpson successfully rewrote the state’s cigarette tax law, giving Moffitt a larger share of the proceeds from the tax.)
This isn’t the first time that Simpson has helped Metro Development, which is a major developer in Pasco County.
In 2015, for instance, Simpson worked with Metro on legislation that allowed Pasco County to create a zone – dubbed a “connected-city corridor” – in which developers could get local approval for projects with far less growth-management oversight from the state. The legislation helped spur the development of a pair of Metro housing projects near Wesley Chapel.
Metro has helped Simpson, too. In 2016, companies affiliated with the developer gave a combined $10,000 to another of Simpson’s political committees. Three years later, the company gave Simpson’s committee another $25,000.