Wayne Dukes' vision for Hernando's future doesn't include septic waste treatment along the county's central commercial corridor. Tuesday, the county commissioner correctly questioned the wisdom of allowing such a facility on 2 acres of commercial property along State Road 50 just as the Florida Department of Transportation is poised to spend $84 million expanding and repaving the highway also known as Cortez Boulevard. He led a split commission in rejecting the proposal from Anthony R. Crescenzo and his company, Johns by John II, citing the incompatibility with present and future businesses on what one speaker called "the new front door of Hernando County.''
Indeed. Crescenzo's proposal was the first chance for the commission to shape the corridor's appearance since DOT said last month that it would accelerate six-laning of the road from U.S. 19 to the Suncoast Parkway and repave the highway from the parkway east to Wiscon Road. Combined, the state will improve more than 6 miles of the highway to increase traffic flow, and county officials are eager for the business development that could follow.
"Does it (septic treatment) fit the future of Hernando County in that spot?'' Dukes asked.
The correct answer is no. Crescenzo proposed to install three 10,000-gallon tanks, a lime storage building and a large container bin behind his building that formerly housed a motorcycle dealership, just east of Winter Road. His plan called for trucking in septic waste, pumping it into tanks, mixing it with lime to kill bacteria, removing the solids then spraying the remaining byproduct at another location.
But to use the Cortez Boulevard site for the operation, Crescenzo needed commission approval of a public service overlay district that permits utility operations in a commercial zone more accustomed to retail stores and professional offices. The St. Petersburg Times, which operates its Hernando County news, advertising and circulation functions from an adjoining site, was among the neighboring property owners objecting to the zoning change.
While the public concerns — potential odor, environmental hazards, declining property values, job creation and neighborhood compatibility — remained in dispute, Dukes was able to clarify the future for economic development. Treating septic waste, he said, wasn't the kind of enterprise he envisioned for the expanding business corridor. Minutes earlier, Realtor Gary Schraut said the owner of nearby property had just lost a potential sale because the owner of a proposed medical office did not want to be located near the septic treatment site.
Just as problematic, however, is the vague language in the county's land code that fails to specify septic treatment as one of the utilitylike operations permissible in the public service overlay district. Commissioners correctly ordered a review of their code, and they will be wise to add more definitive terms to the rules guiding business locations. Treating septic waste is more appropriate for an industrial site, not on land abutting the county's growing east-west corridor carrying traffic between Weeki Wachee and Brooksville.