It has been almost seven years since the Hernando County Commission enacted its "big-box" ordinance, so named because of the large retail stores it aimed to regulate. Before then, developers and corporations called the shots mostly, and commissioners were just learning they did not always need to grab the dangling carrots of added tax revenue and jobs.
The ordinance was very much needed back then, and it since has served the people of Hernando County well as other big-box projects have been vetted. But the economic landscape, along with attitudes about growth management and the impact of such large-site proposals, has changed. That is one reason why it is time to update the ordinance.
On Monday, the county Planning and Zoning Commission approved several amendments to the big-box ordinance, as proposed by planning director Ron Pianta and his staff. The changes now will be forwarded to the County Commission to debate and enact into law.
The updates are both focused and farsighted, and should be welcome additions to residents who wish to keep intense retail development away from their neighborhoods and schools. At the same time, it addresses safety concerns, for shoppers as well as store employees.
Specific changes to the ordinance include:
• Requiring 24-hour businesses to hire security guards to patrol parking lots at night.
• Stricter standards for outdoor lighting, the use of loading docks and the placement of air-conditioning units.
• A separate classification for single-user developments larger than 65,000 square feet, with the requirements that they be located on a major road, that there will be entrances and exits at two separate locations, and that it be farther than 2,500 feet from a public school.
These proposed changes are reasonable and are not likely to deter any retail developers who can afford to build a store that big in the first place. Barring unforeseen discrepancies in the amended ordinance, or the need to make it even more demanding, the County Commission should be eager to approve it. Doing so reinforces the very positive message that Hernando County has big expectations of those who wish to do big business here.