Brooksville banker Jim Kimbrough said at a meeting of a county road planning board last month that he wanted to see State Road 50 widened to promote safety and economic development, "which translates to me as jobs, jobs, jobs."
But considering what Kimbrough asked for and what he and his partners in the massive Sunrise development had agreed to contribute to the public road network back in 2007, his request could — could, I say — translate to money, money, money.
Of all the big developments approved in Hernando County during the home-building boom, Sunrise, south of SR 50 near Interstate 75, was one of the biggest — 4,200 houses, 600 apartments, enough commercial space for two Walmart Supercenters.
In their agreement with the county, Sunrise's owners promised to pay more than $11 million to widen the four lanes of SR 50 to six lanes from I-75 to just past Kettering Road.
Fast forward five years and the state, as part of its project to add lanes to I-75, announced plans to widen SR 50 for several hundred yards on either side of the interstate.
And what, exactly, did Kimbrough ask for at last month's meeting of the Metropolitan Planning Organization?
Well, to finish the job that he and his partners in the Sunrise project — including Realtor Robert Buckner and retired mining executive Tommy Bronson — had agreed to do themselves.
"Please extend it to just east of Kettering Road," Kimbrough asked.
Given the political heft of the Sunrise partners it's not surprising that the county's MPO — comprised of all the county commissioners and Brooksville Mayor Lara Bradburn — did as requested.
Or, at least it agreed to request that the state fulfill Kimbrough's requests (echoed by other nearby landowners), which also included moving forward with widening the two-lane stretch of SR 50 to four lanes between Ridge Manor and Mascotte, near Orlando, and the extension of the Suncoast Parkway through Citrus County.
It's all in resolutions that the MPO will almost certainly approve at its meeting Tuesday.
Now, back to the widening of that mile east of I-75.
Is that just an $11 million gift to Kimbrough and his partners?
No, it's not that simple.
Any money Sunrise doesn't put into widening SR 50, it's supposed to pay in impact fees. Not only that. Because Sunrise was part of a larger plan to build a whole new city in eastern Hernando cow pastures, its transportation impact fees in this area are half again as high as in the rest of the county.
At the time, the base transportation impact fee for a new house was $3,627.
Now it's zero, and, of course, 11/2 times zero is still zero. And even though the commission is on its way to restoring impact fees, its recent history of making development pay for itself is not great.
So, this still might turn out to be a nice gift.
One other way this works out for the owners of Sunrise: Selling it should be a lot easier without $11 million in up-front obligations for roadwork.
Kimbrough didn't return my call. Buckner told me that because of the truck traffic generated by the Walmart Distribution Center on Kettering, the safety concerns are genuine.
He said even an extra turn lane at the intersection of Kettering and SR 50 would help.
Okay. But while acknowledging that any self-respecting community business booster is going to want more roads, let's look at the merit of what these landowners are requesting.
If the state is already planning to widen part of SR 50 east of the interstate, maybe extending the project to 1 mile isn't a huge deal. Still, this stretch of highway is built to handle 30,000 vehicles per day and as of 2011 was getting just about half that number.
The plan to four-lane the more rural, eastern stretch of SR 50 would be far more expensive and harder to justify. Part of this section receives only about one-third of the daily traffic it's designed to carry.
Finally, there's the proposal to extend the parkway, which runs counter to all our hard-learned lessons about how unneeded roads promote sprawl and speculation, how they contribute to the cycle of boom-and-bust.
But I'm sure there are a few landowners up in Citrus it might help out.