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Arc Nature Coast seeks approval of long-range plans for expansion east of Brooksville

A carpenter works on a decorative column for the entrance of the ARC Nature Coast’s Education Center on Mariner Boulevard in Spring Hill.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times (2010)

A carpenter works on a decorative column for the entrance of the ARC Nature Coast’s Education Center on Mariner Boulevard in Spring Hill.

BROOKSVILLE — As officials at the Arc Nature Coast prepare to build their first group home on the east side of the county later this year, they are dreaming big about the future of their 30-acre site.

On Monday, Arc executive director Mark Barry will appear before the Hernando County Planning and Zoning Commission to seek a special exception use permit for the six-bedroom group home and for other longer-term improvements to Arc's property on Neff Lake Road.

The plans include a new training center and additional residential group homes.

Arc serves people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and operates group homes in Spring Hill. Those are on residential properties and did not require special permits. But the organization's administrative site east of Brooksville is zoned agricultural, requiring the permit.

When the organization first moved to the site nearly 40 years ago, permits were not required, Barry noted.

County planning staffers suggested that Arc's plans be included on the new application so the nonprofit agency does not have to come back for permit modifications as it continues with its expansion plans.

"We always have big dreams,'' Barry said.

Moving forward, funding is an issue. The Arc has funding for the initial group home, but not for the other big-ticket items on the wish list. Capital fundraising would likely be required to accomplish those goals, Barry said.

The plan is to begin construction of the group home later this year, a facility made possible by a $325,000 grant the Arc has received from the state. Ten million dollars was allocated by the Legislature last year in an effort to expand residential capacity across the state.

According to the Arc permit application, the eventual plan is to develop the site as a comprehensive campus with two distinct functions.

The property is naturally divided by a retention pond with a drainage trench. On the north side are the existing structures, including the administrative offices, training facilities, storage, maintenance, an open pole barn and an equestrian barn with a riding ring.

Phase 1 of improvements would be the new group home, which would be on the south side of the drainage trench.

Phase 2, which is anticipated between 2016 and 2018, would include a new 5,000-square-foot training facility on the north side of the trench and closer to the entrance on Neff Lake Road. The old training facility would then be demolished.

Existing offices would also be remodeled.

The long-term plan also calls for additional residential facilities on the south side of the trench, as funding becomes available.

The application notes that the training and office area will keep the access that it currently has to Neff Lake Road, but a new entrance would be built for the group homes.

Of the organization's 75 employees, 24 currently work at the Neff Lake Road site. An additional seven will be added for the new group home.

"These are really just dreams and plans,'' Barry said of the long-term vision. "But we really want to work toward them.''

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at behrendt@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1434.

Arc Nature Coast seeks approval of long-range plans for expansion east of Brooksville 03/07/14 [Last modified: Friday, March 7, 2014 6:48pm]
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