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Hernando commissioner questions priorities, purchase price of property

BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County Commission is poised today to vote on the purchase of 4 acres along Cortez Boulevard for $1 million — a purchase that has raised some eyebrows.

The parcel is more expensive than either of the independent appraisals ordered by the county, which were $825,000 and $865,000, and considerably more than the current market value set by the property appraiser, which is $559,800.

Because of that, state law requires approval by at least four commissioners.

In addition, the land is being sought for a road extension that, according to the county's current road project priority list, isn't even funded for construction in the next 22 years.

"I don't know why we would even consider paying 20 percent more than the appraised value for a property for a project that's not even planned before 2035,'' said county Commissioner Diane Rowden.

"We haven't had a workshop on this or a public discussion. Why did this come to be so important right now?''

Rowden said she would rather see impact fees spent on projects that need to be done now because of current congestion brought about by growth, which is the purpose of impact fees.

County officials point out that a shift in priorities is not that unusual.

The proposed road project is a continuation of California Street north of Cortez Boulevard. The parcel the commission will consider buying is on the north side of Cortez, directly across from California, which now ends at Cortez. The proposed road would parallel the western end of Fort Dade Avenue and would provide a straight shot to Citrus Way, with a future connector to Ken Austin Parkway and Rester Drive to the west.

The parcel came onto the county's radar when Realtor Gary Schraut brought it to the attention of Brian Malmberg, the county's assistant administrator for operations.

Though Palmwood Realty had the parcel listed for $4 million, Schraut had a contract with owner Rajputana Property 2 LC to sell it for $1 million. Under the proposed contract, Schraut would receive a 3 percent commission and so would Palmwood.

Malmberg said the road right of way is being discussed now because Cemex is looking to soon extend the property on which it mines lime rock. The county is considering trading an undeveloped county road that bisects the mining land just north of Cortez Boulevard with additional right of way needed for the California Street extension.

Cemex Construction Materials Florida had floated the mining expansion in 2011 but ran into opposition from nearby residents. Although its application was approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission, it was never brought to the County Commission for final approval.

The proposal at that time was a long-term lease with property owners including prominent businessmen Tommy Bronson, Jim Kimbrough, Joe Mason and Robert Buckner.

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

Hernando commissioner questions priorities, purchase price of property 10/07/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 8, 2013 12:03am]
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