Sunday, February 18, 2018
News Roundup

City Hall, it's okay to say 'no' to developers

Folks at the city of Brooksville can actually say "no."

I've heard the word come out of their mouths. I know their vocal cords are capable of forming the syllable.

In fact, I can almost guarantee you'll hear it if you ask for a break on your next red-light camera ticket.

Still, rather incredibly after all they've been through, hardly anybody over at City Hall has learned how to say "no" to developers.

That's true even of developers who aren't really developers, who just want permission to build so that they can resell land for a better price, which technically makes them speculators.

Yeah, those guys. The ones who wrecked our economy. (I know, they had help.)

The bobbleheads at the city resumed their automatic nodding recently, when they got a zoning change request from Evans Financial Services of Jupiter.

It asks for permission to build as many as 427 homes on 171 acres in a rural part of eastern Brooksville, which wouldn't even be part of Brooksville if the city didn't have such a reputation as a pushover that it was blanketed with annexation applications a few years ago.

Another story for another time.

As for Evans, it has so far heard a steady string of yeses from the city — from staffers, from the Planning and Zoning Commission, from almost all of the City Council members, who last month were poised to grant the zoning change until a technicality pushed the hearing to Dec. 17.

The only Council member to suggest that, just maybe, this approval is a bit hasty, has been Vice Mayor Lara Bradburn.

She pointed out that the Evans property is just across the street from the much larger Majestic Oaks subdivision.

. . . that, like Majestic Oaks, anything built on the Evans tract will dump most of its traffic on a winding two-lane county highway, Mondon Hill Road.

. . . that more than five years after its approval, Majestic Oaks is still just a plan.

. . . that it would make sense to wait a few years until the city can get a better idea of how Mondon Hill is handling the increased traffic.

. . . that prudence is especially in order considering there are currently no transportation impact fees to help the city and county pay their share of road improvements.

Yes, it's true that two years ago the city changed its comprehensive plan to allow a subdivision on the Evans property (another misguided "yes"), and that this presumably gives the company the eventual right to develop.

And Brooksville's community development director Bill Geiger said that the time for making sure the roads are wide and empty enough for to accommodate the project will come later, when the folks at Evans actually submit their plans.

Which, in fact, Evans probably won't do. It's a finance company that backed a previous owner who couldn't make a go of it. This would help Evans sell it to somebody who might.

It's a nice favor from the city, in other words, and that it's not being done for local big shots, but to folks from South Florida, might be surprising — except that agreeing to everything developers ask for, and believing their promises, is an old, seemingly unbreakable habit with the city.

Look at the two far-from-complete projects it approved a decade or so ago south of downtown — Southern Hills Plantation Club and Cascades at Southern Hills.

Look at the roads and utility lines the developers of these projects said they would build but didn't.

Look at the money the city spent in court trying — mostly unsuccessfully — to get paid for this unfinished work.

So doesn't it seem as though a little more skepticism is in order? Maybe even, God forbid, an occasional "no."

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