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Hernando planners back townhouses, reject charter school

BROOKSVILLE — Hernando planning commissioners sided on Monday with a proposal for townhouses in an environmentally sensitive area, while rejecting plans for a charter school in a busy neighborhood.

Both proposals now go to the Hernando County Commission for a final decision.

The Hernando County Planning and Zoning Commission listened as residents objected to plans to erect nine buildings of townhouses, totaling 37 living units, on 37 acres west of U.S. 19 and adjacent to Mary's Fish Camp in scenic Weeki Wachee.

The board, however, recommended approval for applicant Curtis Norman and Zeneda Partners Limited Partnership's proposal for clustering the buildings on 17 acres of an upland ridge. The plans call for protecting both the adjacent wetlands and the source spring for the Mud River.

While the property is included in the conservation category in the county's comprehensive plan, uplands in the zone have been considered residential, argued Don Lacey, representing the applicant.

The county's review of the project is just one of several, he noted. A variety of federal, state and regional agencies will also likely have a say given the nature of the property.

Nearby resident Patti Anglin was against the project, saying it would harm manatees and other abundant wildlife on the site. "Nature of this magnitude is priceless,'' she said.

"My main concern is the environmental degradation in this sensitive, beautiful, beautiful spot, especially with the head springs of the Mud River surrounded by this property,'' said Beatrice Shafer, a Pine Island resident since 1974.

Lacey said that the cluster concept provides better protection of the sensitive areas than allowing 37 individual homesites.

Comparing the plan with other nearby developments that carved out canals, this plan, he said, "will have far less impact'' on the environment.

Planning Commissioners Denis Riley, Ron Caldi and Robert Widmar voted to recommend approval with Lisa Hammond and Thomas Comunale voting no.

In a second controversial case, Gulf Coast Academy of Science and Technology co-founder Nevin Siefert could not convince commissioners that the school's plan to build a campus at the terminus of Hoover Street adjacent to Orchard Park in Spring Hill would not negatively affect the community.

The plan calls for a 240-student, 19,400-square-foot campus, double the size of the current facility, which opened in 2003 and is operating on leased space on Lamson Road.

More than a dozen area residents argued that the addition of more traffic on their street would put residents and students at risk. They also voiced concern that the school would be on a septic system since sewer service is not available in the area.

Neighbor John Murphy said that the area was a planned development. Residents expect to see development on the property to be like the homes they have on half-acre lots. "No school should be in there,'' he said.

"We don't need that traffic,'' said area resident Don Scheich, noting that there were other places for a school.

"They are not wanted in our neighborhood,'' said Timothy Maslyn.

"You understand that our decision is not a referendum on your school,'' Planning Commission member Widmar told Siefert.

Comunale agreed and noted that he was especially troubled that there was just one way in and out of the property, which could be a big problem in an emergency.

"If I were you, I'd look for another location,'' Comunale said. "It's a great idea, but it's in the wrong place.''

The recommendation to deny the project passed with a 4-1 vote. Caldi, who tried to find some acceptable traffic regulations on Hoover Street to improve safety, cast the sole no vote.

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

Hernando planners back townhouses, reject charter school 04/11/11 [Last modified: Monday, April 11, 2011 10:48pm]
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