Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hernando sheriff was right to say no to more sprawl

Usually, it's a routine step in the approval of a big subdivision:

A developer asks county agencies if they can provide the project with needed services and facilities — schools and roads, for example.

Almost always, at least after negotiations, the agencies say yes.

That's why Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Michael Hensley's response to such a request is something of a blockbuster:

"Given the reality of this year's budget … and the uncertainty of future funding, we are not able to commit to providing adequate law enforcement services to the proposed project,'' Hensley wrote about the 4,200-acre Quarry Preserve development planned for north of Brooksville.

Or, as translated by Sheriff Richard Nugent: "We're saying no.''

That was true a year ago, when the letter was written, he said; it will remain true for all large projects — called developments of regional impact — until the County Commission agrees to pay for at least 1.7 deputies per every 1,000 residents.

Partly because this year's budget didn't allow him to hire new deputies, Nugent said, that ratio has slipped below 1.5 per 1,000.

"What we're saying is, the board has to come up with a plan to help stabilize service with the population,'' he said.

I know what you're thinking: Nugent is using his political muscle to guarantee still more money for one of the few county agencies that received a budget increase this year.

Yes, probably so. But he is also recognizing a truth that applies to everything from school buses to sewer lines: Sprawl is expensive.

Theoretically, houses generate enough money in impact fees and property taxes to equip and hire needed deputies.

That doesn't work out when projects are spread across the county — especially when so many are only partly built out.

Deputies spend more time driving more miles to keep an eye on the same number of houses. Neighbors are too far apart to discourage crimes such as the burglaries of building supplies and appliances that have plagued Royal Highlands, Nugent said.

And residents are less likely to be homeowners with a long-term investment in the community. Luis Guillen, for example, the 36-year-old man fatally shot after a confrontation with a deputy last week, lived in a rented house in Sterling Hill, a gated community.

Maybe you don't think the approval of the Quarry Preserve is an urgent issue. It won't come before the commission for at least a year, and construction may be delayed for several more years by the stalled housing market.

And, probably, the sheriff's concerns will be resolved long before then, possibly by the developer agreeing to pay for extra deputies.

"That's one way to skin the cat,'' said Jake Varn, the Tallahassee lawyer representing the landowner, Florida Rock Industries.

But I think the project is big enough — a self-contained city with offices and industry, 5,800 houses and 200 resort units — to be worth thinking about now.

Also, in Florida, you can never escape the issue of thoughtless growth — clogged roads, overburdened teachers, thousands of homes on septic tanks rather than sewer lines.

In other words, for too long, too many people in Nugent's position said yes when they should have said no.

Hernando sheriff was right to say no to more sprawl 10/27/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 30, 2008 2:56pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Jones: Bucs need success to get national respect

    Bucs

    Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones offers up his Two Cents on the world of sports.

    No respect

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter walks the field during the second day of mandatory minicamp at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, June 14, 2017. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times
  2. Hopes fade after landslide destroys Chinese village (w/video)

    World

    Crews searching through the night in the rubble left by a landslide that buried a mountain village under tons of soil and rocks in southwestern China found 15 bodies, but more than 110 more people remained missing.

    Vehicles and people line a road leading to the site of a landslide in Xinmo village in Mao County on Saturday in southwestern China’s Sichuan Province. More than 100 people remained missing after the village was buried under tons of rocks and soil.
  3. Rookie Jake Faria dissatisfied with performance in Rays' loss to Orioles

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The rookie pitcher walked to his locker Saturday after tossing the fourth quality start in as many tries to begin his career. He held the potent Orioles bats to three runs and for six innings gave his team a chance to win.

    Orioles third baseman Manny Machado tags out the Rays’ Mallex Smith at third after a rundown in the first inning.
  4. Thousands converge in two St. Pete locations celebrating LGBT rights

    Human Interest

    ST. PETERSBURG — Tom Rockhill didn't know what to expect Saturday, but by noon people were knocking on the door of his bar Right Around the Corner in Grand Central.

    (From left to right) Emma Chalut 18, gets a rainbow sticker on her cheek from her sister Ellie, 15 both of Jacksonville before the annual St. Pete Pride parade in downtown St. Petersburg on Saturday. This year the route was changed from the Grand Central and Kenwood area to Bayshore Drive.
[EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times]
  5. Retired Florida Supreme Court Justice Parker Lee McDonald dies

    TALLAHASSEE — A former Florida Supreme Court justice, who wrote a decision that prevented lawyers from excluding jurors because of their race, has died.

    Former Florida Supreme Court Justice Parker Lee McDonald died Saturday, the court said in a statement. He was 93.