BROOKSVILLE — One of the largest planned developments ever proposed in Hernando County cleared an important hurdle Monday and now heads to the County Commission.
Set to be built southeast of the intersection of State Road 50 and Interstate 75, Sunrise is proposed to include as many as 4,200 single-family homes, 600 multifamily units, 75 motel units and 365,000 square feet of retail and commercial space.
The project is also expected to include office space and possibly a golf course and clubhouse.
On Monday, the county's Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously agreed to recommend rezoning for the massive project to the County Commission, a change in formal land use designations needed to allow development of the 1,385-acre parcel.
Some planning and zoning commissioners questioned the timing on the rezoning, given the current economic downturn nationally and the near stagnation of housing starts in Hernando County.
"I still think this is premature, but I'm going to vote for it against my own better judgment,'' said Anthony Palmieri.
He said he thought it was a good project and noted that the commission's job was to make sure the proposed rezoning was appropriate for this location based on land use issues before advising the County Commission.
Already approved by the County Commission as a "development of regional impact,'' Sunrise will already have to protect ground water, will provide a site for an eastside government center, will minimize its effect on wildlife and will provide economic benefits to the community, Palmieri said.
"What more can we ask for?'' he said.
Planning and Zoning Commission chairwoman Anna Liisa Covell said the project had "come a long way'' from early discussions several years ago. "I agree with Mr. Palmieri,'' she said. "I think it's a little bit premature.''
But she added that the detailed plan attached to the project would mean that growth in the community would be planned and not "hodgepodge.''
"It's the chicken-and-egg theory,'' said Joel Tew, the attorney representing the development. The plan is not to build out Sunrise in the next few years but rather over a 15- to 35-year timeline. Because the project has been planned well in advance and ready to develop, when the housing market does turn around, Sunrise will be ready and attractive to builders, he said.
While some might think planning so far in advance is foolish, Tew said, "the foolish thing, in my opinion, is not to have that vision.''
In other business, the commission:
• Voted to recommend denial of a rezoning of three residential lots along Spring Hill Drive owned by Mohan Kutty just east of Glenridge Drive to allow professional offices.
Don Lacey, representing the applicant, said the rezoning would provide an appropriate transition from the commercial uses on one side and the residential on the other. He said that large buffers would separate the property from residents and that a realigned roadway and cutting down the number of driveways out to busy Spring Hill Drive would make the site safer. But commissioners determined that the proposal allowed business uses to encroach into a residential neighborhood.
• Unanimously agreed to approve a conditional plat for a 5-acre site known as Pine Island Estates north of Cortez Boulevard on Pine Island Drive.
The proposed project would include four lots and the subdivision drew concerns from a neighbor worried about the environmental impact and from James Howton, who said he was among the beneficiaries of the trust which owns the land.
Howton said the family hadn't meant for the land to be subdivided but the applicant's representative Richard Matassa said the applicant had a contract to purchase the property and standing to seek the county approval.
Neighbor Tom Allyn said the land was bald eagle habitat and that developing it would require "tons and tons of fill'' because it was so flood-prone.
Matassa said an environmental impact study would be done and that no eagle nesting has been seen on the site. Arthur Gore of applicant G & G Property Resources LLC said he was familiar with how much water got onto the land and wasn't even sure it would ever be subdivided.
• With members Covell and Palmieri leaving the Planning and Zoning Commission after December, the entire commission made recommendations on who should replace them.
From eight applicants, the group chose current alternate member Lisa Hammond and Denis Riley for the permanent positions and Thomas Deutschle and Harry Holzhauer for the alternate positions. The recommendations now go to the County Commission for consideration.
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1434.