Monday, February 19, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Don't pander to road-paving opponents

Hernando Commissioner Jim Adkins cruised to re-election in 2012, capturing more than 44,000 votes, or 56.5 percent of the turnout. But what if people called a time-out, didn't allow Adkins to take the oath of office and demanded a re-vote because they didn't like the outcome nor that 45,000 people didn't bother to cast ballots the first time around?

Absurd, right? Well, not to Adkins. He followed similar logic last week in trying to derail a rural neighborhood's road paving by agreeing with residents demanding a second vote. It's a position counter-productive to modernizing Hernando's lime rock road network while simultaneously disregarding the will of the majority of the property owners eager to pay for the paving.

Even Adkins' ally, Chairman Wayne Dukes, correctly identified the folly of further delay, saying "we'd never get anything done'' if the board agreed to a second election.

The paving of Hancock Lake Road, a lime rock road serving rural home sites in an agricultural district, was approved seven months ago. But, an objector combined her 10-parcel blueberry farm into a single lot to reduce her assessment, which forced the county to recalculate the costs. It devised a formula in which all neighborhood property owners paid a per-parcel assessment instead of the earlier plan which granted some residents a half-assessment if their lots did not abut the road directly. The recalculation meant a cost reduction for people living on Hancock Lake Road, but an increase for residents using the road to access properties further away.

The alteration should trigger a new vote, seven residents argued at last week's public hearing, though none identified themselves as a previous supporter seeking to change their vote to "no.''

That is key. The original vote, as required under the county program, ended 27-17 in favor of the paving. Fifteen lot owners did not vote. If the result had been recalculated after the blueberry farmer combined her lots, the vote would have been 27-8 since owners could cast ballots for each of their lots.

Adkins was wrong to indulge the opponents who complained, not about the cost, but about the potential for future development in a rural area. The clear majority want their lime rock road paved. Unfortunately, the commissioner's stand mimics his past position when he suggested returning to the former voting rules requiring a 60 percent majority before paving assessments could proceed.

That minority-rules behavior contributed for years to residents' inability to pave their own roads. It is an illogical system that need not be replicated for the sake of appeasing a vocal minority.

The rest of the commissioners get it. They voted 4-1, with Adkins dissenting, to approve the new assessments for Hancock Lake Road. It is an encouraging outcome. Residents seeking to upgrade their own neighborhoods and property values should be allowed to do so and commissioners shouldn't pander to a minority unwilling to invest in the very area where they live.

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