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Hernando Commissioners seek state approval for more business-friendly growth plan

By Barbara Behrendt | Times Staff
Published: March 7, 2018 Updated: March 7, 2018 at 01:35 PM
Hernando County Commissioner John Allocco | Times

BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County Commission Tuesday unanimously agreed to seek state approval for its updated comprehensive plan, which will guide the county’s growth through 2040.

Commissioners supported changes largely focused on loosening development rules, softening requirements for environmental protection and energy conservation, promoting economic development and emphasizing private property rights.

The new plan and its focus have made it controversial.

"Nothing is perfect,’’ Commissioner John Allocco said. "It’s important to have our freedom,’’ he added, but favored some government control, "so we don’t have anarchy.’’

The updated plan would increase residential densities from 16 housing units per acre to 22 units per acre, countywide. The plan assumes Hernando County’s population will reach 236,200 by 2040.

Work on the plan began nearly two years ago, with the first draft written largely by county planning staff. After meetings with citizens and business leaders, the plan was changed to reflect the more conservative viewpoints of sitting county commissioners.

Opponents spoke at previous hearings, but not at Tuesday’s meeting.

Many of them also fought expansion of the Cemex lime rock mine near Brooksville, which the commission approved Tuesday. They had hoped the county would ban mining expansion countywide in the new comprehensive plan.

Other provisions missing or reduced in the new plan are wildlife corridor protections, energy efficiency and Smart Growth strategies, conservation land acquisition and the Environmentally Sensitive Lands Program.

The plan also has strong supporters.

"Everything that’s been done here has been positive,’’ said Don Lacey, of Coastal Engineering

He thanked the commission for allowing representatives of the county’s business alliance to add their input to the comprehensive plan. The document "continues to provide guidance’’ for growth, but allows county commissioners to use their judgment, Lacey said.

After state comment on the draft, it will return to commissioners for a final vote.

>>>Previous coverage:> Hernando business leaders push to loosen development rules>>

>>>Previous coverage:> Rewrite of comp plan resurfaces philosophical differences in Hernando>>

Contact Barbara Behrendt at [email protected] or (352) 848-1434.