BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County Commission voted Tuesday to delay until June 24 a public hearing on a Hernando Beach marina's controversial rezoning request.
Brooksville attorney Joe Mason asked for the delay late Monday because he had just been hired by Blue Pelican Marina. The marina is seeking the rezoning for an expansion plan that includes an environmental education plaza and a lodge.
The president of the Hernando Beach Property Owners Association, Judith Simpson, had earlier sought a delay to give the community a better sense of what was involved in the application and the county's plans for drawing more tourists to Hernando Beach.
The issue has become volatile, with more than 100 pages of public comments, nearly all of them against the proposal, jammed into the public record.
Tuesday morning, commissioners faced a standing-room-only audience, many holding signs listing the reasons they opposed the rezoning; others suggested alternate locations for the environmental education plaza.
The county has received a $4 million state allocation to build the plaza, and marina representatives have been using a model to show their vision for integrating the center into their marina expansion.
Commissioner Dave Russell agreed that it made sense to wait until after Gov. Rick Scott's July deadline to approve the state budget to discuss the issue.
Commission Chairman Wayne Dukes stressed that the county has no contract to place the center at the marina site; he said there are multiple sites under consideration.
County Administrator Len Sossamon said he would bring all options to the June 24 meeting.
Nick Nicholson was the only commissioner who voted against the delay. He said he didn't want to see the education center near the marina or anywhere on Shoal Line Road, a comment that brought applause. He also said he was not keen on turning away the crowd of Hernando Beach residents in attendance.
Though officials said they could speak even if the hearing was postponed, County Attorney Garth Coller noted that comments made Tuesday could not be considered part of the formal evidence commissioners could use to make their decision in June.