Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hernando commissioners dropped the ball on development

A year ago Friday, county commissioners Chris Kingsley and Rose Rocco proved they couldn't stand up to developers when the stakes were highest.

That's how it looked to me, anyway.

Both Rocco and Kingsley had said they were against changing the county's comprehensive plan to allow the Hickory Hill subdivision in eastern Hernando County. They had assured opponents they were on their side.

Their justifications for flipping and voting for Hickory Hill during last year's marathon meeting seemed awfully thin.

"They really are working to get something positive there,'' Rocco said of Hickory Hill's developer, Sierra Properties.

The pressures the two of them faced were immense, including Sierra's ongoing public relations campaign and its all-star cast of former public officials willing to put their reputations behind such arguments as:

• Carving up a 2,800-acre ranch, Spring Lake's largest agricultural property, would create a "transition zone'' to protect nearby farmland.

• The fertilizer and pesticide applied to three golf courses and 1,750 yards would never contaminate the aquifer.

• Hernando County, which has enough residential land set aside for roughly 125,000 new souls, needed Hickory Hill's additional lots to accommodate growth.

I watched the commissioners (other than, thank you, Diane Rowden) swallow all this — and meanwhile ignore the added expense and environmental costs that come with sprawling development. I came away more convinced than ever that developers run the show.

Old news, right? But worth revisiting now because of a looming project that I think is even more destructive than Hickory Hill.

Florida Rock Industries wants to build a city — with offices, stores, about 6,000 residential and resort units, and three golf courses — on the site of its old mine north of Brooksville. And it wants to do it without widening the two-lane road leading to this property, U.S. 98.

Which is starting to make Florida Hometown Democracy's idea — give voters the right to change the comprehensive plan — look pretty good.

This got a boost last week when a judge in Tallahassee restored some of the petition signatures required to place the proposal on the ballot, which supporters hope will happen in 2010.

Yes, there are good arguments against Hometown, but one of the main ones doesn't move me at all.

Hometown's opponents say the proposal will take planning decisions away from experts — state and county planners, consultants and county commissioners — and into the hands of amateurs, meaning us.

Well, remember that vote on Hickory Hill. Then look around and see what else these experts have brought us.

They had their chance. I'd say they blew it.

Hernando commissioners dropped the ball on development 04/27/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 6, 2008 10:38am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. East Tampa store owner who survived one shooting is targeted again with fatal results


    TAMPA — In the 2011 video, Mahamoud Ibrahim stands behind the counter of his tiny East Tampa convenience store, his back to the surveillance camera meant to discourage thieves.

    A memorial has sprouted in front of the 29th Street Store in East Tampa, where a robber fatally shot owner Mohamoud Ibrahim on July 16. Security experts say small mom-and-pop stores in high crime areas are easy targets for robberies and typically don't have the budgets for extra security measures. [TONY MARRERO/Times Staff]
  2. AARP still waiting for the two Ricks to send voter education videos


    AARP Florida wants to educate St. Petersburg residents on Mayor Rick Kriseman and former mayor Rick Baker’s views on how to make the Sunshine City more livable.

    It's been a frenetic St. Pete mayor's race so far. Maybe that's the reason AARP hasn't received voter education videos from the campaigns
  3. Rowdies part of a record-setting season for USL attendance


    ST. PETERSBURG — Although Rowdies fans haven't had many recent opportunities to show out at Al Lang, the United Soccer League turnstiles keep turning at a record rate.

    A Rowdies fan waves flags ahead of the first half of the game between Tampa Bay Rowdies and Orlando City B at Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Saturday, March 25, 2017.
  4. Spicer resigns as White House press secretary


    WASHINGTON — White House press secretary Sean Spicer is resigning his position, according to two people with knowledge of the decision.

    In this May 9, 2017, file photo, White House press secretary Sean Spicer speaks during the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington.  White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer has resigned over hiring of new communications aide.   [AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File]
  5. William March: Sharp divide on health care's next step for Kathy Castor and Dennis Ross


    ACA repeal fail: Castor happy, Ross furious

    U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, has been one of the strongest backers of the Affordable Care Act.  [ANDRES LEIVA   |   Times]