Editor's note: This is the third in a series of guest columns submitted by the Hernando County Community Relations Department in observance of National County Government Week.
The Hernando County Planning Department is responsible for monitoring the comprehensive growth management plan, providing land use and subdivision planning, transportation planning and environmental planning.
Florida's growth management system requires that all local governments adopt a long-range comprehensive plan to guide growth. The plan must conform to state requirements and is subject to review and approval by the Florida Department of Community Affairs. The county Planning Department plans and implements growth management strategies through its Comprehensive Plan, which contains goals, objectives and policies that are unique to Hernando County. These goals, objectives and policies are developed as a result of community input, and are approved by the Board of County Commissioners. The goals, objectives and policies are implemented through ordinances, building and zoning permitting processes, subdivision review processes, zoning and other land-use mechanisms, and through capital planning.
A key provision in the growth management system requires that local governments provide for infrastructure needs associated with the impacts of new development. Under this requirement, known as "concurrency," local governments must demonstrate that the necessary infrastructure improvements can be funded and constructed to keep pace with new development. The infrastructure mandates are for parks, schools, roads, potable water, sanitary sewer, solid waste disposal and drainage needs.
Land use and subdivision planning are ongoing processes administered in the department. Individuals seeking to change the zoning of their property, subdivide their property or otherwise conduct an activity that requires an approval process, make application through the Planning Department for the appropriate reviews. The process involves coordination with the applicants, internal and external agencies, interaction and notification of the public, and public hearings before the Planning and Zoning Commission (a volunteer board), and/or the County Commission.
Transportation planning is a vital factor of any community's development. The planning staff provides services to the Hernando County Metropolitan Planning Organization Board (MPO), which includes the County Commission, a Brooksville City Council member and a nonvoting liaison of the Florida Department of Transportation. The MPO was created in 1992 as a result of population increases and urbanization. The MPO function allowed for the reimbursement of funding from state and federal sources for certain transportation planning activities.
An important document developed out of this process is the Long Range Transportation Plan, a guide to address future transportation needs. Transportation planning also involves the planning, coordinating, managing and monitoring of the county's mass transit needs.
The Planning Department is responsible for the implementation and management of the county's Environmentally Sensitive Lands (ESL) program, which was approved by a voter referendum in 1988. Under this referendum, the county was authorized to levy ad valorem taxes on all taxable property by one-tenth of one mill (10 cents for every $1,000 of assessed valuation) until 2018, to support a program for the purchase and management of environmentally sensitive lands.
There are four properties now being developed under this program for public use: Cypress Lakes Preserve, Fickett Hammock Preserve, Bayport Park Expansion and the Peck Sink Stormwater Park. A citizens committee devoted to the preservation of Hernando County's unique natural characteristics, the Environmentally Sensitive Lands Committee, oversees this program. The environmental planning staff manages the program objectives, as well as reviews development proposals for environmental impacts and compliance with local codes and ordinances.
During the upcoming year the Planning Department will monitor state-mandated changes to growth management, implement a state-mandated requirement to coordinate the impacts of growth on public schools, continue to implement the Environmentally Sensitive Lands program, process development applications, implement transportation planning requirements and monitor the need to update development codes and ordinances related to the same.
For more information concerning any of these matters, please contact the Planning Department at 754-4057, or visit the Web site at www.hernandocounty.us/plan.
Ronald Pianta is director of the Hernando County Planning Department. Guest columnists write their own views on subjects they choose, and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of this newspaper.