Barbara Behrendt, Times Staff Writer

Barbara Behrendt

Barbara Behrendt is based in Brooksville and covers Hernando County government, growth, development and the environment for the Tampa Bay Times. She joined the Times in 1983. Born in Chicago, she grew up in Columbus, Ohio, and earned her degree from the Ohio State University.

Phone: (352) 848-1434


  1. Overcrowded Hernando Animal Services calls for adoptions

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — The small lobby at Hernando County Animal Services was packed Friday morning, and much of the business could be attributed to a special deal the shelter was offering.

    Dogs and kittens: vaccinated and spayed or neutered for $10 (and adult cats for $5). The offer ends today.

    One woman from Pasco County was thrilled to adopt a bouncy little black chihuahua. Another couple was pointing and watching a batch of calico kittens as they romped in a cat interaction room. Families wandered along the dog kennels, looking at the sad eyes and wagging tails of the dogs, all hoping to find new homes....

    Sarah Caskie, 27, left, an Hernando County Animal Services service technician, assists Petronia Stancil, 60, of Lakeland, with a cat adoption on Friday. Today is the last day of an adoption special on tagged dogs and cats. If it does not get within state compliance for capacity, it will be forced to euthanize animals.
  2. Hernando commission approves job-creation incentives for three companies

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — When Richard Smith decided to move his company from South Florida to Central Florida earlier this year, he starting hunting in Hillsborough and Pasco counties.

    Then he got snagged by the Hernando County economic development team.

    Last year, he already had purchased a home and some acreage in Hernando, where he says he has numerous relatives. Finding a new business site near his home simply meant he could be close to his work. This week, Smith told county commissioners he loves his new arrangement....

  3. Appeal filed in rezoning for marina in Hernando Beach

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — Hernando Beach residents have filed an appeal to last month's rezoning at Blue Pelican Marina, citing procedural issues, inconsistencies with Hernando County's comprehensive plan and the conflict posed by County Commission Chairman Wayne Dukes running the meeting and casting the deciding vote while he has an ongoing business relationship with the marina.

    The legal challenge, filed in the name of an adjacent landowner, the Speakman Trust, asks the court to overturn the commission's 3-2 vote to approve the rezoning, which allows the business to expand its dry dock boat capacity and build a lodge....

  4. Officials promise action on traffic safety concerns at Hernando Beach marina

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — For Hernando County Commissioner Diane Rowden, the discussion about the operation of a forklift at Blue Pelican Marina in Hernando Beach came down to the assurance of public safety, even if it wasn't clear who is responsible for enforcing the rules.

    During Tuesday's commission meeting, Rowden read through a list of 10 rules for the use of the forklift on Calienta Street that were included in the marina's 2011 permit from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection....

    A posted warning sign that vehicles and pedestrians crossing on Caliente Street in Hernando Beach view is obstructed by shrubbery from a driver's vantage point on Friday, July 18, 2014. Businesses catering to recreational boaters such as Blue Pelican Marina and Hernando Beach Seafood a wholesale seafood distribution market who often use their commercial vehicles on Caliente Street would encounter drivers not yielding to traffic patterns.
  5. Hernando commission talks taxes, proposes small rate increase for next year

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — Taxes were the issue of the day at the Hernando County Commission meeting Tuesday, with commissioners tentatively approving a small increase in the property tax rate as well as the Penny for Projects sales tax referendum that will go on the ballot in November.

    The county staff presented commissioners with a proposal to increase the property tax rate slightly in order to support the general fund, including the $1.3 million budget increase sought by the sheriff. The staff also recommended a small bump in the mosquito control tax to avoid dipping into the general fund to make ends meet. The staff recommended leaving other tax rates, including the transportation trust fund and emergency medical services, the same....

  6. Mining group seeks delay on Brooksville land use hearing

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — Just a week after a resounding rejection by the Hernando County Planning and Zoning Commission, the applicants for the Cemex mining expansion west of Brooksville have asked for a delay in their next hearing.

    The application by Cemex and the landowners to change the county land use map to convert 573 acres of residential property to mining was slated to go before the Hernando County Commission on Aug. 12. The applicants want to delay the hearing until December....

    A proposed map is displayed to the audience as Cemex officials and Hernando County residents debate a proposed mine rezoning request during the County Planning and Zoning Commission meeting in Brooksville on July 14. The commission voted to recommend the denial of Cemex’s rezoning request, which, if passed, would allow mines to use land designated for residential housing and commercial uses.
  7. Safety concerns about Hernando Beach marina's forklift stirs dispute

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — Public safety concerns over the operation of a forklift on Calienta Street at Blue Pelican Marina in Hernando Beach piqued Hernando County Commissioner Diane Rowden's interest during a recent contentious rezoning debate.

    So, earlier this month, with the consensus of the commission, Rowden asked county staffers to do some research.

    The morning after that discussion, Rowden learned just how prickly an issue the forklift was with marina owner Gordon Wolf. Upset that he had not been able to talk about the issue when she raised it, Wolf showed up at her house and confronted her husband, Jay....

    Commissioner Diane Rowden says despite a sign and crosswalk, the Blue Pelican Marina’s forklift is a hazard on Calienta Street.
  8. Plans for environmental, tourism center at Weeki Wachee Springs move forward

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County officials have taken the next steps toward building the proposed Nature Coast Education and Tourism Center at Weeki Wachee Springs State Park.

    County officials met earlier this month with a state park planner to begin discussions of how to mesh the county's mission to lure tourists and connect them with nature-based activities with the operation of the state park....

  9. Fourth of July mud-racing event canceled in Hernando

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — A proposed mud racing and watermelon-seed-spitting Independence Day event with fireworks at the Hernando County Fairgrounds was canceled Friday when the event sponsor, Peter Michael "Mike" Barbee, informed fair officials he couldn't get insurance.

    Barbee has been promoting development of a mud-bogging venue and a reality TV show about what it would take to make it happen for over a year. Friday afternoon, he posted on his Mud on the Barbee Facebook page: "Just found out we are uninsurable for this type of event. I hate to say it but this event is canceled.''...

    Mud on the Barbee members will not be able to hold a mud-racing event at the Hernando County Fairgrounds after the event’s organizer had problems with insurance and a deposit.
  10. Owner of land where mud-bogging event was planned settles with county

    Human Interest

    BROOKSVILLE — The owner of property that had been promoted as the site of a mud-bogging event known as the Mud on the Barbee has settled his case with the county after he was issued a stop-work order.

    Thomas H. Malouf faced four citations from Hernando County Development Services when the county discovered what was going on and issued the order. The citations included failure to obtain a conditional use permit for a mud-bogging site, failure to obtain a land-clearing permit, failure to obtain a floodplain permit before constructing a bridge and failure to obtain a permit for the construction of a stage....

    Mike Barbee, organizer of the Mud on the Barbee event, will now hold his event July 4-5 at the Hernando County Fairgrounds. He claims Hernando County wants “to tar and feather me and send me out of town on a rail.” Thomas H. Malouf, who owned the land where Barbee planned to hold his event, was fined $500 by the county and ordered to make changes after the county issued a stop-work order for the property.
  11. Hernando County considering two companies' new marketing strategies

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — County officials are hoping to land an expert who can produce a new brand for Hernando and a marketing strategy that will hook new visitors and businesses.

    One scenario would be a pitch to "Follow the Mermaid Trail.'' That brand was offered by Tom Barnette of local marketing firm Business Development Strategies.

    The company was one of two that tied for first place among county commissioners after they heard oral presentations this week from five companies vying for the contract....

  12. Tourism director proposes 2-cent increase in Hernando's bed tax

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County commissioners will consider a 2-cent increase in the county's tourist tax in order to beef up marketing efforts and cover the rising costs of tourism development.

    Tammy Heon, the county's tourism development coordinator, made a pitch to commissioners this week for raising the tax to 5 cents on the dollar.

    Last month, Heon came before the commission and proposed letting the lease lapse on the storefront visitors center on Cortez Boulevard near Interstate 75. Not enough people were stopping at the office, deciding to stay in Hernando and generating tourism tax revenue....

  13. Divided Hernando commission okays controversial rezoning for marina in Hernando Beach

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — After more than 5 1/2 hours of testimony from attorneys, county staffers and dozens of residents, a divided Hernando County Commission on Tuesday approved a rezoning request by Blue Pelican Marina that has kept the Hernando Beach community in an uproar for nearly three months.

    The final decision came down to the swing vote of Commissioner Jim Adkins, who wanted the county to make it clear that it was not going to put its planned Nature Coast environmental education center on the marina site, even though the center was still on the marina's application....

    Nancy Barnett Plaeger, center, joins others for Tuesday’s meeting, which had more than five hours of testimony.
  14. Investigation of Hernando Beach fire department focuses on use of alcohol, expenditures

    Local Government

    HERNANDO BEACH — Hernando County officials are investigating allegations that Hernando Beach Volunteer Fire Department Chief David Freda bought and consumed beer with firefighters on duty and spent fire account money to buy alcohol in Spring Hill, Daytona Beach and Maryland.

    The anonymous complaint also alleged Freda made his firefighters buy him beer and cigarettes and paid them back by allowing them to use his county gas card to fill their personal vehicles....

  15. Hernando Beach residents protest marina's rezoning request

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County Commission on Tuesday will again likely face dozens of Hernando Beach residents opposed to the proposed expansion of Blue Pelican Marina.

    The marina's rezoning request would allow expansion of the marina itself and the possible construction of a lodge, as well as a cultural and environmental education center. That's the same plan the Planning and Zoning Commission recommended for approval in April and the same plan the commission decided to delay hearing until Tuesday....

    The Nature Coast Educational Plaza could go elsewhere, but a lodge could be built in Hernando Beach, pending rezoning.