Here's a story a Realtor once shared to hammer home the real estate axiom of location, location, location.
She had clients who wanted a new home in a higher-end development. On their tour, they left Interstate 75 and drove less than 2 miles east to a bustling master-planned community with a Sam's Club and other commercial parcels out front, an elementary school inside and community clubhouse and swimming pool that looked like something from a Disney-like resort. It impressed the family.
They got back into their car and headed for what the real estate agent believed would be an equally pleasing experience — a new town neighborhood that would have life, work and play amenities in one location. There would be a business park, school, plans for two championship-caliber golf courses, a dazzling clubhouse and pool, pocket parks, boardwalks and walking trails. Plenty of land had been set aside as a nature preserve.
She crossed over the interstate and continued west, then turned north on U.S. 41 for what should have been a jaunt of less than 5 miles. Instead, the customers determined it to be a fruitless journey.
Turn around, the husband said. It's too far.
They never even made it to the new town of Connerton in central Pasco, instead opting for the Seven Oaks community in Wesley Chapel and its proximity to existing north-south highways.
Lots of home buyers made similar choices. Sales at the 4,800-acre Connerton were so disappointing — even with the new elementary school, a long-term care hospital and the resort-style pool and clubhouse — that it shut down operations in 2009 and sold at the fire-sale price of $5.6 million last year. The collapsing real estate market aside, an inadequate external road network doomed the project's chances at success. There is no nearby east-west route. The north-south access, traffic-clogged U.S. 41, remains at just two lanes until a federal-stimulus financed expansion is completed later this year.
So, I'm wondering if the government and real estate interests in Hernando County will take note of the Connerton fate. Tuesday, the County Commission, for the third time, is scheduled to consider the Quarry Preserve, a planned new town development 6 miles north of Brooksville. This go around, the commission is asked to bless a negotiated settlement between the land owners and the state Department of Community Affairs to avoid a costly administrative hearing. A commission majority has green-lighted Quarry Preserve twice previously, and there is no reason to suspect a different outcome Tuesday.
By rearranging some schedules, turning some of the single-family homes into apartments or condos, cutting back on the seniors-only homes, and agreeing to work with the state Department of Transportation on highway construction, the Quarry Preserve backers have managed to overcome state objections to their plan.
On paper, it is supposed to be an impressive alternative to the existing housing choices. Golf courses, a resort, a business park and nature preserve are all part of the planned development that will surround a town center.
Except it remains in the middle of nowhere. It is industrial/mining land surrounded by agriculture. Its remote location 6 miles from Brooksville promotes urban sprawl and discourages in-fill development. The ratio of proposed jobs to housing units is inadequate, which means more traffic and pollution as people leave Quarry Preserve to work elsewhere.
And all those other housing lots available elsewhere in Hernando County? Since so many of them aren't behind a walled community, they apparently don't count. Quarry Preserve is scheduled to begin construction in 2013 — a time line that must have come from the Optimists Club — even though thousands of platted home sites indicate the county has no need for additional residential lots over the next 15 years.
So, this is the plan for Hernando's prosperity: Let's flood the housing market with 5,800 homes, a golf course resort and 200 hotel rooms and business park in a location abutting Citrus County.
You can almost hear the looming conversations between customer and Realtor as they travel U.S. 98.
It's too far.