BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County Commission on Tuesday will again likely face dozens of Hernando Beach residents opposed to the proposed expansion of Blue Pelican Marina.
The marina's rezoning request would allow expansion of the marina itself and the possible construction of a lodge, as well as a cultural and environmental education center. That's the same plan the Planning and Zoning Commission recommended for approval in April and the same plan the commission decided to delay hearing until Tuesday.
What isn't the same is that the educational center that marina owner Gordon Wolf envisioned the county building on a portion of the 31-acre site won't go there anymore. The county has talked most recently about the center going instead to the Weekiwachee Preserve.
However, Wolf, under the business name 5000 Calienta Street, has not removed the center from his application.
Hernando Beach residents opposed to the rezoning haven't altered their argument that allowing the expansion will harm their quality of life, negatively affect property values, expand the commercial area of the community and threaten already-stretched infrastructure.
The agenda packet delivered to commissioners includes more than 100 pages of emails and letters, nearly all of them in opposition to the rezoning. The first is a five-page, single-spaced email written by Hernando Beach resident Forrest Bennett after he discovered the signs announcing a public input meeting on the proposal.
That launched Bennett into mobilizing the community to fight the plan. Residents have distributed fliers, put up banners and signs, and held community meetings.
"We have also hired one of the finest land-use attorneys in the state of Florida and expert witnesses to defend our community," he said.
Bennett and others do not want to see the slice of sensitive land between the marina and Shoal Line Boulevard used for commercial or high-density residential purposes.
"The 31 acres is zoned agricultural, and it is predominantly wetlands. What they are looking to do is expand the commercial footprint with a large profit motivation," Bennett said.
"Hernando Beach is unlike any other small community in coastal Florida, with a 7,000-acre preserve on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other," he said. "If we win on Tuesday, we have protected this unique and tranquil community and the quality of life we enjoy."
Several residents have come out in favor of the rezoning.
Gladys Moore wrote recently on the community's blog site, "I think the rezoning of the (Blue Pelican Marina) land is fine and should be approved."
Jack and Bernadette Bowerfind wrote to the county that "Hernando Beach is a prime destination. It should be touted with pride and not hidden away as a haven for a privileged few."