BROOKSVILLE — Facing a standing-room-only crowd of angry residents, the County Commission on Tuesday voted to cancel plans to build a water treatment plant, storage tanks and a well field next to the Sherman Hills subdivision.
Instead, the staff was told to look for another site to meet future water needs and make the system more efficient, which were the stated goals of the plan.
Residents of Ridge Manor West and Sherman Hills have been protesting the plan since the beginning, questioning why the county would put such a facility so near to a built-up neighborhood.
They have voiced concerns that the pumping might drain their own wells or create sinkholes. Residents also said they worried about the chemicals that would be used at the treatment plant and the two, planned 2-million-gallon water storage tanks.
Last month, the Planning and Zoning Commission voted 3-1 to recommend approval.
In November, the County Commission agreed to pay $470,000 to purchase the property from Lee Pallardy Inc. Profit Sharing and 401K Plan contingent on the land use change. The land had previously been approved for 244 duplex and apartment units.
With the commission's unanimous vote Tuesday, the contract to buy the property is voided.
Commissioner Nick Nicholson said the amount was too much to pay for the property, especially during a down market for vacant land. He also noted that there are plenty of other nearby, available parcels not surrounded by residential neighborhoods.
Commissioners Jim Adkins and Diane Rowden asked about using a site the county already owns on Kettering Road that had previously been rejected because the high price — $800,000 — of running a water line to the site from the existing wells near Sherman Hills Boulevard.
County officials were also concerned about using that site because it is next to a sewage treatment plant that will need expansion in the future. Commission Chairman Wayne Dukes said that when the sewer plant needs expansion, there will be even more public outcry.
Rowden noted that there were three votes not favoring the site and there might not be a need for the dozens of residents to come up to speak when the project wasn't moving forward.
Dukes called a break in the meeting at that point.
Commissioners scattered in the room talking about the issue with groups of residents while County Administrator Len Sossamon spoke with the utilities staff. When the commission reconvened, Dukes announced that the administrator had canceled the project at the Lee Pallardy site and asked the staff to look for another plan.
The audience erupted in a chorus of "thank you" and the residents, most of them dressed in red to protest the plant, filed out.
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1434.