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Hernando rejects request for Arlanie Road access to sand mine, appeasing residents

BROOKSVILLE — In a unanimous vote Tuesday, the County Commission buried plans to use a rural Hernando County road to provide access to a sand mine and a future community in Pasco County.

The applicant, Massey Partners Ltd., urged the commission to allow it to continue to talk to county officials about its proposal to improve and use Arlanie Road to haul 10 million cubic yards of sand and dirt.

"We think the proposal is a fair one,'' said local attorney Darryl Johnston, representing the company. He pitched the project as a dual benefit for Hernando County because it would provide both the road improvements at no direct cost to residents and dirt and sand for future projects in the area.

But those benefits were not convincing to neighbors concerned about potentially hundreds of truck trips through their neighborhood each day.

And they didn't sway county staff members concerned that Hernando would get all of the negative transportation effects while having no planning control or ability to collect impact fees or property taxes from the actual borrow pit or future residential community.

Residents in the Masaryktown neighborhood spoke of a quiet piece of country road that would be ruined by traffic from as many as one truck every three minutes.

They spoke about threats to the safety of their children both from the trucks and from strangers driving the trucks who would be on their roads every day. They bemoaned being forced to live in fenced compounds or walled lots just to mitigate the effect of the truck traffic.

They begged commissioners to reject the firm's offer to build up the lime rock on Arlanie Road or paving it so trucks could haul 10 million cubic yards of sand and dirt from Massey Partner's 1,400-acre site just south of the Hernando/Pasco line.

Glen and Barbara Shelt told commissioners how they sought out a place with peace and quiet, eventually ending up with 15 acres on Arlanie Road. Barbara Shelt said the project owner "wants to destroy our neighborhood.''

She described a street where residents walk, jog, ride bikes, ride their horses and walk their dogs, and where children walk along roads without sidewalks to catch their school bus in the early mornings and walk home from the bus in the afternoons.

"We were looking for the home of our dreams,'' Glen Shelt said, adding that they would never have bought if they thought they would land on a truck route.

Alicia Mott said neighbors don't care about having a paved road.

"We and our neighbors would rather live with the mud in the wet season and the dust in the dry season,'' she said.

County planning director Ron Pianta showed commissioners maps demonstrating that the areas surrounding the sand pit are zoned for agriculture and conservation in both counties' land use plans. In Pasco, the Massey parcel could hold more than 600 homes after the mining operation is finished, which Pianta considered too intense for that area and for Arlanie Road.

Commissioner Jim Adkins said he liked the idea of development and new jobs, but added, "I don't like a Pasco development vested for the use of our Hernando roads and we get nothing in return.''

Speaking for the firm's owner, Johnston urged the board to work with him to see if some of the issues could be resolved.

Commission Chairman Dave Russell said he thought the county's staff had spent enough time discussing the issue and he had heard loud and clear what area residents and staff were saying.

"There's no benefit there'' for Hernando County, Russell said. "I can't support this project now and don't see how much could be done to win my support in the future.''

The unanimous vote to halt any further talks about improving the road for the sand mine drew enthusiastic applause from the residents in the audience.

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

COUNTY COMMISSION

In other business

• Commissioners will seek an opinion from the Florida attorney general after having a debate over who could attend private executive sessions when commissioners discuss union negotiating strategy behind closed doors, a rare exception to the Florida-in-the-Sunshine Law.

County attorney Garth Coller said either the county administrator or a designee can attend, but not both, or any other staff, by his reading of the law. Commissioner John Druzbick insisted that the administrator, the finance director and other staff members be allowed to be included, as they were when Druzbick was a School Board member and the board discussed union negotiations.

• The commission amended its sea grass protection ordinance to allow the county to meet new requirements related to the Hernando Beach Channel dredging project.

Previously, the county was going to mitigate the destruction of several acres of sea grass by creating new sea grass protection zones near the start of the channel. When it was found that those areas had begun to recover from previous damage from propellers, the state required the county to add more sea grass protection zones.

Officials settled on several spots in the Bayport and Jenkins Creek area, which will now be part of the ordinance.

• At the recommendation of utilities director Joe Stapf, commissioners agreed to an alternate disposal method for commercial garbage to be used as needed between now and the opening of the new landfill cell, which is expected next year.

Commercial haulers will be permitted to take Hernando County garbage to facilities in Pasco and Sumter counties, keeping about 100 tons of trash from going into the Hernando landfill every day. Because haulers of commercial garbage pay Hernando a tipping fee to dump at the landfill, the move could cost the county $109,000 a month in revenue.

But Stapf is concerned that if the landfill filled up before the new cell is opened, it would cost the county far more to haul all trash outside Hernando County.

• Commissioners approved shortening the hours of operation of the East and West Solid Waste Convenience Centers, effective Sept. 1. The move is one of many cost-saving measures the county has been putting in place as it deals with millions of dollars of lower revenue from multiple sources.

New hours of operation will be from 9 a.m. to

5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Previously, the centers were open 10 hours per day.

For now, the county landfill will continue to operate from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

• Commissioners approved a reduction in the speed limit along the portion of Shoal Line Boulevard where the dredged sand and water from the Hernando Beach Channel will be piped during the project.

The speed limit will drop to 45 mph from the current 55 mph. Regular speed signs and message signs will announce the change to drivers in the area, according to Public Works director Charles Mixson.

Hernando rejects request for Arlanie Road access to sand mine, appeasing residents 08/11/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 11, 2009 8:14pm]
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