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Hernando commissioners could learn from what didn't happen in Seville

Before I gave up on golf, my favorite outing in Hernando County was a round at what was then called the Seville Golf and Country Club followed by a $7.99 prime rib dinner and a few drafts at what was then Bubba's Bar.

Besides being just across U.S. 19 from Bubba's, Seville was perfect because there was usually nobody around to complain about my slow play and because it was one-half nature preserve: lots of bulked-up Sherman's fox squirrels; turkey oaks instead of houses along the fairways; a sensation of getting away from our stucco-and-strip-mall "civilization."

Enjoy it while you can, I told myself. It'll be built up before you know it.

I needn't have worried. Tuesday afternoon, I drove up to the entrance of the course on U.S. 19 near the Citrus County line. Things were so unchanged I started to get nostalgic.

Yes, sadly, the former Bubba's burned down last year. The course is now called the Dunes, and its sign on the highway was updated a few years ago. But the 2-mile drive back to the course is still a journey into total, traffic-free silence. Golfers in the parking lot told me that the course is prettier than ever and almost as wild.

This land was originally approved for development in 1972, and its most recent plan, approved by the county in 2006, calls for 3,811 homes on 1,361 acres. In all those years, including probably the most frenzied spasm of real estate speculation in Florida history (which is saying something), only 23 of these homes have been built.

Yes, there were problems getting utility connections early on, and the developers who have taken an interest in the place have had remarkably lousy timing, just missing both the recent boom and the one in the 1980s.

But if there had been real opportunity, I bet, somebody would have been able to take advantage. So, why didn't they?

"I believe it has to be the location," said Paul Herrick, 62, who moved there six years ago with his wife, Lea.

Of course it is. Which is why I wish our county commissioners had visited the development before they — with the exception of David Russell — voted to approve the Quarry Preserve on Tuesday.

I know we've written volumes about this planned city of 13,000 in an old Florida Rock Industries mining pit. I know nearly every article, column and editorial has mentioned the hopelessness of its location — not quite as far north as Seville but still 6 miles north of downtown Brooksville.

So why bring it up again? Because, with development decades away, this may be the last shot I ever get. Also, because Realtor Gary Schraut said on Tuesday that the Quarry was for Hernando's future, as though a "yes" vote was a blow struck for progressive planning.

In fact, the opposite is true. Schraut and others have long complained that when the last growth spurt came, it came to antiquated subdivisions such as Spring Hill and Royal Highlands. Approving the Quarry, among other distant, unneeded subdivisions, guarantees this will happen again.

Sure, plans for the Quarry might change a little. But development approvals, once granted, can't be revoked. Who knows what the county will need when the time comes to develop that old mining pit.

And how will the Quarry's plans look then? Like pure nostalgia.

Hernando commissioners could learn from what didn't happen in Seville 02/10/11 [Last modified: Thursday, February 10, 2011 9:42pm]
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