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Planning board shoots down Brooksville group home proposal

BROOKSVILLE — Concerns about allowing a group home for people in transition from drug and alcohol abuse into a residential area led the Hernando County planning board to reject the proposal on Monday.

The Puerto Rico-based non-profit organization Fundacion U.P.E.N.S. had asked the Hernando County Planning and Zoning Commission for a special exception to allow the program, which would serve four to six people at a time.

The clients would be in the last phase of treatment, and the program would train them to re-enter society, Daisy Vazquez, an applicant representative, told the board. No sex offenders or violent offenders would be in the program, she added.

The property, 0.75 acres of a total 3-acre parcel, is located on Mondon Hill Road just west of Markham Lane.

The proposal concerned next-door neighbor Kathryn Wheeler, who is preparing to sell her home to get closer to her job in Orlando. "Would you come look at our home based on having this facility next to you?" she asked.

County planners told the board that similar facilities around Hernando were also in residential areas and that the special exception the applicant was seeking was allowable in such neighborhoods.

Yet planning commissioners worried about the compatibility of the home in a residential community. Planning commission member Thomas Communale suggested putting a 6-foot block wall with a gate around the home would keep the neighborhood safe, but he could not get support for that idea.

Commission member Ron Caldi said that such a wall "turns it into a prison" and suggested landscaping instead.

Planning commission Chairwoman Lisa Hammond agreed saying the wall "seems to be overkill" and she said she doubted that the residents, in their final phase of treatment, "they're very low on the continuum of danger."

But with just four planning commissioners present, the two could not convince a third member to approve.

Communale then proposed denying the special exception request, which passed 4-0. The applicant's only recourse is to seek a hearing before the County Commission.

Planning board shoots down Brooksville group home proposal 06/14/10 [Last modified: Monday, June 14, 2010 9:55pm]
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