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Hernando planning commission okays return of property to agricultural use

BROOKSVILLE — In the midst of the housing boom, the owner of a 148-acre parcel just north of Brooksville proposed building 530 residential units, a small commercial area and all the amenities of upscale Florida living.

On Monday, the new owner proposed a far different project.

With the demand for new residential housing having fallen off in recent years, Thomas Malouf asked the Hernando County Planning and Zoning Commission to rezone the land at U.S. 98 and Yontz Road from planned development and commercial back to agricultural.

While the Planning Commission voted to recommend that the County Commission approve the application, there was some resistance.

Planning Commissioner Robert Widmar said he thought there was a better way to accomplish what Malouf wanted "without changing the underlying zoning ... rather than taking us back into the 1800s.''

Widmar suggested that the owner keep the existing zoning while seeking an agricultural exemption from the Property Appraiser's Office.

"I'm not trying to take you back at all,'' Malouf responded, noting that his property was some distance from the Brooksville city limits. "My desire is to farm and not to develop.''

Planning Commissioner Thomas Deutschle voiced concern about flipping back and forth between more and less intense zoning. But Commissioner Lisa Hammond said she supported the rezoning.

"Right now, this property is nonproductive,'' Hammond said. "It's not getting to be developed. It's not getting to be developed for the next 10, 15, 25 years. ... It's the right of this owner to do what he chooses to do with this property.''

The Planning Commission also acted on two other agriculture-related applications Monday.

In the case of Cambren Davis and Deirdre Rizzo Fox, the commission approved a special exception use permit to allow the retail sale of agricultural products and two festivals a year to promote growing olive trees on their Rester Drive property, west of Brooksville.

The commission also agreed to recommend rezoning land owned by Martin Paul Lunsford off Tombstone Street, near Ridge Manor, from residential to agricultural. Lunsford said he wanted to use a piece of his land to grow berries.

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

Hernando planning commission okays return of property to agricultural use 09/12/11 [Last modified: Monday, September 12, 2011 10:45pm]
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