A plan for a new city in Hernando County's rural northern tier has significant flaws, fails to justify its need and rationalizes its shortcomings with questionable promises of sustainability.
It's nothing Hernando County Commissioners haven't heard before about the proposed Quarry Preserve, but this week the pointed critique came from the planners at the state Department of Community Affairs. They aren't buying Quarry Preserve's sales pitch, at least not yet. Neither are the state agencies overseeing transportation, environmental protection, historical resources, education, natural resources and wildlife. Their concerns came in a 44-page review of the proposed comprehensive plan amendment that would allow 5,800 homes in a rural expanse 6 miles north of Brooksville.
Right now, it looks like the only people in government on record supporting the Quarry Preserve as presented are Commissioners Jeff Stabins, John Druzbick and Jim Adkins. Everyone else sees it for what it is: premature, leapfrog development promoting urban sprawl.
Undoubtedly, some of the objections will be ironed out in negotiations among the state, county and the landowners. It's standard operating procedure and DCA acknowledged a certain flexibility by stating it understood the importance of economic development and the land's deteriorated quality from mining operations.
But there are other blunt assessments that cannot be ignored. The state Department of Transportation, for instance, said Quarry Preserve "does not demonstrate a need for the proposed development; it justifies it based on existing over-allocations in other counties."
An everybody-else-does-it argument isn't much of a fallback position. The county should be avoiding, not repeating, poor planning decisions that promoted overbuilding elsewhere. It's an imperative point considering Hernando County has enough vacant residential land to accommodate up to four times the population growth expected by 2025.
Likewise, there is criticism of Quarry Preserve's transportation analysis that overestimates the amount of traffic to be contained on the project's internal roads. Such skewed data means the external road network will be more congested than promised.
Simply stated, it is imprudent to put 13,000 people on 4,300 mostly remote acres that are a half-dozen miles from the infrastructure needed to support it.
Three commissioners ignored these concerns from their own planning staff/county administrator and approved this amendment application in January. The looming question is whether the commission will pay greater heed to planners in Tallahassee than to those in Brooksville.