BROOKSVILLE — In a rare move, the Florida Department of Community Affairs has put Hernando County on notice Wednesday that it intends to find the proposed Quarry Preserve project "not in compliance.''
The County Commission approved a comprehensive plan change in September for the massive 4,282-acre project dubbed a "new town'' to be build on an old rock mine north of Brooksville.
The project was set to include up to 5,800 residential units of mixed types, 200 lodging units, an 850,000-square-foot business park, office space and public use areas grouped in a town center arrangement.
The DCA cited several problems with the project as presented.
While the developer Brooksville Quarry LLC tried to sell the "new town" concept to avoid a finding that the plan would create urban sprawl, the DCA concluded that "the amendment has not demonstrated that it is a new town'' for a variety of reasons.
The DCA also found that the method used to show that the project would fill a need was "professionally unacceptable.''
"The county is projected to need 30,897 dwelling units during the 2025 planning horizon. This could be accommodated by the current capacity of the county's comprehensive plan,'' wrote Mike McDaniel, chief of the office of comprehensive planning.
The DCA also concluded that the comprehensive plan amendment needed for the development was inconsistent with the objectives and policies of the comprehensive plan.
McDaniel recommends that the county revise the amendment to "demonstrate the characteristics of a new town.''
The notice is not a death blow for the project, said Tallahassee lawyer Jake Varn, who represented the developer. He plans to meet with DCA to see if the plan can be changed to satisfy the department's concerns.
Though he hadn't seen the department's letter, he correctly assumed one of the main objections was that the project would promote sprawl.
That means "we did not do enough to convince them that we are building a new town,'' Varn said.
If the developer can't reach an agreement with DCA, he said, the matter will go before an administrative law judge.
County Commissioner Dave Russell could not remember a noncompliance notice being issued for a major project in Hernando, and DCA Secretary Tom Pelham told the Times this week that the agency has approved 90 percent of the requests for comprehensive plan amendments it has received since 2007.
But Varn said noncompliance notices have become more common in recent years with Pelham in charge.
"It seems like we're always trying to get somebody out of a noncompliance,'' he said.
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1434.