BROOKSVILLE — Neighbors of the nearly 3-acre tract on Sunshine Grove Road have come to expect the swarm of recreational vehicles and bluegrass music fans every year around Valentine's Day.
Called a "hootenanny'' by the locals, the event drew dozens of folks for the "pickin' and grinnin','' said neighbor Deborah Murphy.
Problem was, the impromptu RV park had never been approved by Hernando County and it likely never would have been because of its inadequate size.
Now, the site will be shifting focus. The Planning and Zoning Commission on Monday unanimously approved the property south of Harrison Street and across from Spring Ridge to be used as a bed-and-breakfast.
Part of the deal accepted is that the new owner will remove more than two dozen RV hookups on the site.
Representing Charles I. Hogg, Alan Garman of Civil-Tech Consulting Engineers explained that the previous owners had bluegrass musicians visiting in the winter. While the 3,600-square-foot house has only two bedrooms, it has a commercial-quality kitchen.
The new owner sought a conditional use permit to allow as many as four guest rooms. Garman said he didn't believe that a bed-and-breakfast that size would impact the neighborhood.
Murphy worried that a bed-and-breakfast next door would threaten her right to keep pigs and chickens. "Pigs do smell and chickens make noise early in the morning,'' she said.
The board limited the addition to four guest rooms, required improvements to the Sunshine Grove Road entrance, and insisted on an inspection of the two large septic tanks that had been used to drain the tanks on the recreational vehicles.
During the meeting, commission members shifted gears and talked about themselves; specifically, a possible change in the way the county handles zoning and land use recommendations.
At the direction of the County Commission, county staffers have been looking into whether Hernando should do away with the volunteer planning board and instead hire a hearing officer to make recommendations to the County Commission.
In a report scheduled to go to the County Commission on Wednesday, the staff concludes that using a hearing officer can mean fewer delays and more reviews, more accountability because that person can be fired and a hearing by a neutral, outside professional.
The major drawbacks are the increased costs involved with hiring a professional to replace the volunteers, and losing the perspective of ordinary citizens serving on the board.
"I think this is political by the Board of County Commissioners,'' said chairwoman Anna Liisa Covell. "It all started out with politics as usual. Let's hope it doesn't end with politics as usual.''
Having a planning and zoning commission takes the politics out of the decisionmaking process, she argued. A hired hearing officer "is going to dance to the master,'' Covell said.
"It sounds like some counties out there could save a great deal if they went to an all-volunteer board,'' said member Lisa Hammond.
In other business:
• The P&Z unanimously recommended denying an 86-unit apartment complex with a day care center on a 5.5-acre lot on Cortez Boulevard at La Pine Road by Brooke Hill LLC. County staff had recommended denial based on several factors. Commission members said they thought the intense density was "premature'' for the area. Petitioner Anthony Jacobs argued that no one had a crystal ball and he thought the project fit the area.
• In a 3-2 vote, the board recommended denying rezoning for expansion of marina space on Hernando Beach at the north end of Calienta Street adjacent to the public boat ramp. The petitioner for Gulf Coast Marina, Richard and Monzellia Smith, wanted to add dry storage for 100 to 125 boats. Neighbors and commissioners questioned added congestion and appropriate buffering.
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at email@example.com or (352) 848-1434.