BROOKSVILLE — The massive Quarry Preserve project, slated for 4,280 acres of mined land north of Brooksville, got a nod of approval Tuesday from the County Commission.
Commissioners debated the merits and challenges presented by the huge project for 21/2 hours before voting 3-2 to forward the changes in land use to the state Department of Community Affairs for review.
The mixed-use project was not recommended by the county's planning staff, which was concerned that it was premature, amounted to urban sprawl and would require water, sewer and road improvements not envisioned or budgeted for that portion of the county.
Still, the project had won a narrow recommendation for approval by the county's Planning and Zoning Commission in December.
County Administrator David Hamilton had also weighed in on the issue, urging commissioners in a recent memo to give the county planning staff's concerns serious consideration.
"At this time, the county is facing another difficult budget year with further anticipated deficits," Hamilton wrote. "In this regard, the county simply has no money in which to contribute to the needed infrastructure related to (U.S.) 98 or any other infrastructure related to this proposed development of regional impact."
Representatives of the developer, Brooksville Quarry LLC, argued that the project would be a sustainable community — in essence a "new town."
Attorney Jake Varn, representing the developer, described a community with a town center, a mix of public facilities, businesses offering jobs to area residents, a resort area and two or three golf courses.
Don Lacey of Coastal Engineering Associates Inc. called the planning of such a large project "a unique opportunity" and described how the team was working hard to use the best planning tools to create a viable community that offered "a sense of place."
Commissioner Jim Adkins asked how much it would cost the county for the infrastructure, and Cliff Manuel of Coastal Engineering said the developer was going to have to meet the state growth management requirements to pay for all of its impacts.
Planning director Ron Pianta said the county had not yet reached agreement on how much the developer will have to pay toward infrastructure such as road improvements. He said previously approved capital project lists don't include money for road improvements near the Quarry Preserve's site.
Commissioner Jeff Stabins urged county staffers to work with the developer to make sure Hernando gets the money needed to pay for the project's impact.
Stabins, Adkins and John Druzbick voted to send the Quarry Preserve project to the state for review, with Dave Russell and Rose Rocco voting no.
In other business
• The commission elected Druzbick as their chairman for 2010, replacing Dave Russell. Rose Rocco was elected as vice chairwoman and Jim Adkins as second vice chairman.
• Commissioners named Dr. Michael A. LoGuidice, the director of the emergency room at Brooksville Regional Hospital, to be the interim medical director for Hernando County Fire Rescue, filling the void left by the death of Dr. Robert Blackburn. The county will prepare a request for proposals to fill the job permanently.
• Commissioners agreed to a new process for developing the 2010-11 budget. Departments will analyze their services to see which are legally required. The system will allow spending cuts to be based on those priorities. The county expects to a $4.47 million revenue shortfall next year.
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1434.