BROOKSVILLE — As Hernando County's blueprint for growth is about to undergo its required seven-year checkup, planning officials are urging residents to get involved in the process.
Planning and Zoning Commission Chairwoman Lisa Hammond put it this way: "How many Quarry Preserves do you want? How many Hickory Hills, Lake Hideaways and Sunrises? How many developments in bankruptcy? How many Southern Hills?''
Voters in November will consider the controversial "Hometown Democracy" constitutional Amendment 4, designed to give ordinary citizens more of a say in how their community grows. Why not come out now and have that direct say? asked Robert Widmar, Planning and Zoning Commission member.
"This is one of the opportunities the public has already'' to set the plan for future growth, Widmar said.
At 5:30 p.m. Monday, the Planning and Zoning Commission will begin a series of public workshops at the County Commission chambers in Brooksville aimed at drawing citizens into the so-called evaluation and appraisal report preparation.
Counties are required to gauge the effectiveness of their comprehensive plan every seven years using that method. The complex process must include public input.
In addition to reaching out to a long list of community, business and civic groups to gather their ideas, the county planning staff is also hoping that the workshops offer people otherwise unconnected to such groups their say as well.
For every interest group that will have input based on its own agenda, residents need to voice their desires as well, Hammond said. Otherwise, the community's future "may be carved out by the big boys,'' she said. "We so much need the public input.''
Each workshop will focus on one specific area of planning concern, with Monday's session focused on groundwater and potable water.
Several short presentations are planned followed by a time for residents to step up and have their say. The meetings are not expected to run past 7 p.m. and they will be taped for rebroadcast and for video viewing on the county's website.
In two recent meetings with the Planning and Zoning Commission, planner Patricia McNeese explained that the evaluation report should be based on the growth issues each community designates.
Hernando planners are looking at the county's needs through 2035, when the population may have increased by another 50 percent.
The five areas of concern in Hernando include groundwater and potable water, economic development, preserving the integrity of natural resources, providing needed infrastructure and the future land use pattern.
The workshops will take place on the second Monday of the month through January before the draft goes to the County Commission. In December, when the group is discussing transportation, sanitary sewers, solid waste and schools, the meeting will be at the school district headquarters.
The completed evaluation report is due Aug. 1, 2011. After that is approved by the state, the county planning staff will begin work on a series of comprehensive plan amendments which match up with changes identified as needed through the process.
Those will be considered through 2013.
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1434