BROOKSVILLE — The debate over the importance of preserving industrially zoned land near the county's airport could soon land before the Hernando County Commission.
Earlier this month, the county's Planning and Zoning Commission voted unanimously to approve a special exception use permit to allow a church on a 16-acre parcel at the northeast corner of Anderson Snow Road and Corporate Boulevard.
The action was controversial because county planners, the airport director and business development officials all recommended denying the permit, based on existing land use regulations and future plans for industrial sites within the planned development district at the airport.
The planners concluded that a church in that location would be incompatible with the neighbors, inconsistent with the county's comprehensive plan and harmful to future economic development opportunities for the county.
During the hearing on the application, planning commission members admitted that they were challenged by the decision because they usually rely heavily on the county staff for technical analysis.
The planning commission's approval will stand unless the County Commission chooses to conduct its own public hearing. Commissioner Diane Rowden recently reminded her fellow commissioners that they had that opportunity.
But Commissioner Nick Nicholson proposed another idea.
He said he wants to see the county change its ordinance so that, in the future, churches would not be allowed on property zoned industrial.
"If we're really serious about protecting our industrially zone property, then we need to change our ordinance,'' Nicholson said.
He said he wasn't interested in revisiting the application that the Planning and Zoning Commission granted for Crosspoint Church to build its 1,600-seat sanctuary.
Nicholson said he believed that the attorney representing the church, Darryl Johnston, had made a good case for approval.
During his presentation, Johnston noted that the county's current rules allow churches in any zoning district, so long as they have the proper permit. He also argued that the county had set a precedent on a nearby industrially zoned piece of land when it approved a Veterans of Foreign Wars post several years ago.
"I think that the barn door is open and we can't close it for the future unless you change the ordinance,'' Nicholson said.
He said he planned to meet with Ron Pianta, the assistant county administrator for planning and development, to discuss the issue further and bring a proposal back to the County Commission at a later time.
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1434.