BROOKSVILLE — Slowly but surely, Brooksville is trying to weave a handful of long-range plans into a single coherent vision.
The city is simultaneously working to meet the goals of a state-mandated comprehensive plan, a revitalization plan, a rewrite of the land development code, a water-improvement project and several other "visioning projects," according to a memo sent to City Council members.
It's an ambitious undertaking that could pay big dividends, according to a planning consultant who addressed the council Monday night.
"I think they're pointed in the right direction," said Gene Boles, program manager of the Community Outreach Partnership Program in the University of Florida's Department of Urban and Regional Planning. "But their plans need more focus. "
Representing UF's Center for Building Better Communities, Boles came to the council meeting to discuss the center's six-month review of the city's initiatives.
The center used a team of professional planners and graduate-level students trained in urban and regional planning to assess the initiatives.
Previously, the center has worked with governments including Zephyrhills, West Palm Beach, Sarasota County and towns around Gainesville.
The city will pay the center $18,000 out of its reserves for the review work, which is expected to be completed by Dec. 31.
Boles said Brooksville was uniquely positioned to take advantage of its location in the Tampa Bay region, citing the city's proximity to major highways like Interstate 75, the Suncoast Parkway and state roads.
He said the city's inclusion in the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority's master plan as a potential northern hub could be pivotal to growth and development.
"The long-term potential for that is hard to be overstated," Boles said. "All the ingredients are there. Brooksville is extremely well-positioned from a transportation standpoint within the region."
Boles offered six specific recommendations to council members and city officials:
• Establish a shared vision.
• Sustain a joint planning process with Hernando County.
• Expand and diversify the local economic base.
• Lobby hard for a major role in TBARTA's master plan.
• Revitalize the center of the city.
• Create a "green" community.
"This is an interesting approach. … This is the first time we've been asked to look at plans from this broad of a perspective," Boles said. "We really enjoyed doing it. We think Brooksville and Hernando County are fine communities that have a lot going for them."
Council members seemed eager to start working on the center's recommendations.
"I think we need to move forward on those issues," Mayor Joe Bernardini said.
"All these things seem to be lining up. We need to get started on this sooner rather than later," Vice Mayor Lara Bradburn said.
Right before Boles' presentation, the South Brooksville Community Initiatives Leadership team gave the council an update on its ambitious development plan for the deteriorated and depressed neighborhood.
Public and private leaders have been working for more than a year to create a blueprint for the area, which includes significant roadway and infrastructure improvements, a corporate park, strip malls and businesses along Dr. M.L. King Jr. Boulevard.
Led by former council member Frankie Burnett Jr., the team has enlisted the services of Coastal Engineering Associates of Brooksville to help with the "initial vision" land use map.
"If we can help, it's one of the things that we'd like to do," said Don Lacey, senior vice president and director of planning for Coastal Engineering. "If we can get people to agree on some of the concepts, then we can start to work on how to implement them into the vision."
Burnett said he has been pleased to see the response the plan has generated since unveiling the map in May.
"We are moving forward," Burnett said. "And we're looking forward to the day that we can make this vision plan a reality."
Joel Anderson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 754-6120.