Tuesday, February 20, 2018
News Roundup

Rewrite of comp plan resurfaces philosophical differences in Hernando

BROOKSVILLE — The age-old conflicts typical in a developing community are coming to a head again as Hernando County officials consider the first major rewrite in 27 years of their official blueprint for development.

For more than a year, county planning staffers have been working on a new comprehensive plan, which will be in force until 2040. Their work has been shaped by their planning expertise, intermixed with suggestions by members of the public from both ends of the political spectrum. The County Commission and the Planning and Zoning Commission each held public workshops on the proposed changes in the plan earlier this month.

During the County Commission hearing, Brooksville resident Shirley Miketinac summed up the debate, saying that, to her, the draft now before the county "is a decent compromise between the liberal, progressive, environmental philosophy and the conservative, property rights, constitutional philosophy.''

Those on the opposite side of the issue see the latest version as an undermining of rules needed to protect the qualities that make Hernando County attractive and sustainable into the future.

Planner Pat McNeese, who has been responsible for much of the rewrite, said that after the original draft came out last year and public and official input was gathered, she worked on a rewrite that incorporated issues that arose.

Among her changes: reduced the size of the document, reduced the number of mandatory requirements beyond what the state requires, beefed up the section on property rights, took a hard look at the issue of wildlife corridors, clarified environmentally sensitive lands strategies since the commission changed its policy on that issue and expanded the economic development element.

One major change in the draft plan over the existing plan is an increase in residential density from 16 units per acre to 22 units per acre. McNeese pointed out that the number of county residents is projected to increase from 181,878 — the population in April — to 236,200 by 2040.

Ten residents and others with ties to the community have criticized the latest draft of the growth plan, preferring the original rewrite that was done by the county's planners. They do not see the document as a compromise and have complained that their input was not considered in the rewrite.

They have argued that the latest version would gut important safeguards for the environment, doesn't go far enough to protect residents living close to mining areas, doesn't do enough to protect drinking water and fails to promote sustainable energy and green-building requirements.

They also have urged that no new mining areas should be approved and that the county should support a state ban on fracking.

The changes in the new draft "have substantially weakened and undermined the goals for protecting our environment, creating healthy communities and promoting smart planning,'' said Gordon Carroll, treasurer of Hernando County Democratic Executive Committee.

Carroll was critical of the county's decision to remove the map showing wildlife corridors and said that changes in the environmentally sensitive lands program have reduced it to being ineffective.

Resident Gary Sawyer voiced concern that commissioners might have the wrong motivation for approving a watered-down comprehensive plan.

"We are here because we care about the future of Hernando County, unlike the business interests that may even be contributing to your election campaigns because there is money to be made if certain decisions are made by you,'' Sawyer said.

Said resident Rosemarie Grubba: "We need to be forward thinking and provide a thoughtful growth plan to promote, protect and keep the natural beauty that draws out tourism here. That is our main economic driver.''

DeeVon Quirolo, who is active with local environmental and anti-mining groups, expressed disappointment that the revisions in the document didn't reflect the comments from many residents who supported a stronger document.

"Smart planning is essential to create a healthy, sustainable future for Hernando County, and this plan won't do that,'' Quirolo said.

Miketinac said she supported the rewrite because it took out the "shalls, wills and musts,'' allowing for more flexibility.

"It's a better plan because it strengthens personal property rights,'' she said.

Anthony Palmieri, a former member of the county Planning and Zoning Commission, said he thought the new draft was better than the existing plan and acknowledged the difficulty in drawing up a document.

"How do you achieve perfection when you have so many things to balance out?'' he asked. "You can never please everybody."

The changes did seem to please commissioners.

"Sounds like we're moving in the correct direction,'' said commission Chairman Wayne Dukes.

"This is a balancing act,'' said Commissioner Jeff Holcomb. "The county has to grow. ... We have to find the right places to grow and the right places to conserve.''

Commissioner Steve Champion said he was pleased to see fewer government mandates and more attention to property rights. He also voiced his concern for the mining industry, saying that his family worked for the mines and "taking lime rock out of the ground isn't the worst thing in the world.''

The county's business community — including the Greater Hernando County Chamber of Commerce, builders, Realtors, mining interests and Hernando Progress — has hired Coastal Engineering Associates of Brooksville to analyze the draft comprehensive plan to have input, Don Lacey of Coastal told the planning commission.

The County Commission is expected to consider approval to transmit the new plan to the state in December. After a state review, final approval could come in March.

Contact Barbara Behrendt at [email protected] or (352) 848-1434.

Comments
Lawsuit accuses FSU fraternity, national chapter with negligence in pledge’s death

Lawsuit accuses FSU fraternity, national chapter with negligence in pledge’s death

The parents of Andrew Coffey, the Florida State University student who died from alcohol poisoning after an apparent hazing episode last year, have sued the national Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity and nine of its members for their son’s death.Coffey, who wa...
Updated: 25 minutes ago
St. Petersburg regatta to Havana again buffeted by politics

St. Petersburg regatta to Havana again buffeted by politics

The 2017 St. Petersburg-Habana Yacht Race was celebrated as more than a competitive regatta to Cuba’s capital city of Havana.The relaunch of the maritime competition canceled since 1959 was hailed as a reflection of the detente started under former P...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Fingerprint on Gatorade bottle leads to arrest of man, 23, in sexual assault of 71-year-old woman

Fingerprint on Gatorade bottle leads to arrest of man, 23, in sexual assault of 71-year-old woman

NEW PORT RICHEY — The 23-year-old man wanted in connection with sexually assaulting a 71-year-old woman on Monday left behind the clue that deputies said led them right to him: A fingerprint on a Gatorade bottle.Deputies said that and other evidence ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Yes, we have some bananas: Port Tampa Bay welcomes first shipment in 21 years

Yes, we have some bananas: Port Tampa Bay welcomes first shipment in 21 years

TAMPA — More than two decades after the last bunch arrived on shore, bananas are back at Tampa’s port. More than 3,900 pallets of Chiquita bananas from Ecuador arrived last week at the new Port Logistics Refrigerated Services warehouse.It was the fir...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Pasco County loans $500,000 for neighborhood rebuild

Pasco County loans $500,000 for neighborhood rebuild

NEW PORT RICHEY – West Pasco Habitat for Humanity’s new partner opened its checkbook Tuesday to help redevelop the Van Doren Avenue and Leisure Lane neighborhood west of U.S. 19.Pasco commissioners agreed to lend $500,000 from a reserve account to th...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Spring Hill candidate for Congress: ‘I care about this community — I will scream that from the rafters’

Spring Hill candidate for Congress: ‘I care about this community — I will scream that from the rafters’

SPRING HILL — A Hernando County woman new to the political arena has filed as the fifth Democrat to run against longtime Florida lawmaker U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster for his spot in the U.S. House of Representatives.Dana Cottrell, 49, has lived in Sprin...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Pasco commission balks at landfill plan

Pasco commission balks at landfill plan

NEW PORT RICHEY – Pasco County commissioners put the brakes on expanded trash hauling to an out-of-county landfill, saying its solid waste department showed poor planning in seeking last-minute authorization on what should have been a thoroughly vett...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Hernando commissioners discuss disbanding planning board

Hernando commissioners discuss disbanding planning board

BROOKSVILLE — One day after the Hernando County Planning and Zoning Commission recommended denial of a controversial Cemex mine expansion, county commissioners — a majority of whom have spoken in favor of expanded mining — discussed eliminating the p...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Upset by grade, Robinson High student threatens to shoot up campus, police say

Upset by grade, Robinson High student threatens to shoot up campus, police say

Schools nationwide are on heightened alert in the wake of last week’s fatal shootings in Broward County, and in the Tampa area, that means official warnings about social media posts and more calls for police action.Two Tampa boys, one 15 and one 16, ...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Bed bugs found in books at Brandon library branch

Bed bugs found in books at Brandon library branch

BRANDON — The unwelcome appearance of a lowly insect is forcing county officials to close the Brandon library branch for three days.No, not bookworms. Bed bugs.The county is bringing in a pest control company to inspect and treat the 25,000-square fo...
Updated: 4 hours ago