Putting a church in an area designated for industry is slipshod planning that could prove detrimental to economic development opportunities in a county begging for jobs beyond residential construction or low-wage service employment. It also hurts other nearby landowners trying to market their own land as industrial sites.
That was the valid point from the developer of the Holland Spring Industrial Park last week as he unsuccessfully sought to reverse the Hernando County Commission's decision in December to allow a church on land that was originally part of the park.
The inaction let stand an earlier decision from a volunteer zoning board permitting a 1,600-seat church sanctuary — with future plans for a school — on 16 acres.
The pitch from Holland Spring is a precursor to potential litigation. Unfortunately, commissioners gave little pause to the valid reasoning. The attorney for the adjacent landowner said in a Jan. 6 letter that his client's 70 acres "is one of a very few, if not rare, sites within Hernando County of sufficient size and of unique location'' to accommodate a large industrial or manufacturing project. It now faces a diminished attractiveness as a premier industrial site that will negatively affect other industrial land in and around the park.
Such sentiments can be routine in land-use disputes, but the arguments from attorney Bruce Snow mirror the public position of the county's professional planning planners, airport manager and business development office. All opposed the church location at Anderson Snow Road and Corporate Boulevard that is within the airport overlay district intended for future industrial development.
Whittling the inventory of vacant industrial land by allowing non-business uses is foolish and will put the county at a disadvantage as it attempts to expand its tax base and bolster the employment outlook by attracting companies seeking to expand or relocate. Commissioners also should pay attention to the imperative point from Snow, who noted the incompatible mixture of such dissimilar land uses is not good for either churches or industry.
Indeed. The county has compromised its own land-use plan. So much so that Commissioner Nick Nicholson, who declined to rehear the zoning case, has advocated for changing county ordinances so churches could not be placed on industrial land in the future. It's a legitimate, but tardy proposal that simply affirms the contention of county staff and attorney Snow.
Putting a church and perhaps a future school in an industrial zone is akin to putting industry in a school zone. It is the very definition of incompatibility and the commission majority of Nicholson, Jim Adkins and David Russell are wrong to turn a blind eye to it.