BROOKSVILLE — The 4,280-acre Quarry Preserve project set for old mining property north of Brooksville took a critical first step toward approval Tuesday.
In a 3-2 vote, the Hernando County Planning and Zoning Commission sent the massive project on to the County Commission, recommending that proposed land use changes be forwarded to the state Department of Community Affairs for review.
The vote is the first of a lengthy process of required approvals for Quarry Preserve, which developers expect to include 5,800 houses as well as industrial, commercial, educational and governmental uses.
Although applicant Brooksville Quarry LLC had been working with the county's planning staff for three years on the project, the staff still had several issues with the proposal.
The applicant and the planning board spent nearly five hours discussing concerns such as whether the project is needed and timely, if the plan is an example of urban sprawl, and whether Hernando can provide the necessary services.
Attorney Jake Varn, representing the applicant, characterized the project as a "sustainable community'' that would allow people to live, work and do business nearby. That is because the development there would be "a mix of everything,'' he said.
The plan includes a town center, a business park, two golf courses and a resort. The residential component would be a mixture of single and multifamily homes as well as age-restricted housing.
By having a master plan for the development, Varn said, there would be no issue of urban sprawl. The development would be built over a period of 15 years, he said.
"We believe this will be a real asset for this county,'' he said.
Cliff Manuel and Don Lacey of Coastal Engineering Associates Inc., described how they were working with the county on water and sewer service plans.
The former head of the state's growth management agency, Linda Shelley, said only a few aspects of the Quarry Preserve might hint at urban sprawl. But she read from the state's rules, noting that these issues could be mitigated through techniques such as mixed uses, clustered developments or town centers, which are in the Quarry Preserve plan.
Opponents argued that the project is not compatible with the surrounding area and is not needed.
Planning commissioners wrestled with how the development might forever change the north central area of the county.
Is it premature to approve the project, asked planning commission member Ronald Caldi.
"Yes, I think we're telling you that's a concern that we have,'' said planning director Ron Pianta. "This decision has some potential long-term impacts on what that part of the county will look like in the future.''
Planning commission member Thomas Comunale said he didn't believe enough issues had been settled between the developer and the county and commission Chairman Robert Widmar said there were elements of the project he liked and elements he didn't, such as the plan for a golf resort which he called "ill conceived.''