The Hernando County comprehensive plan was rejected in part because state officials said it would produce a county where strip centers and convenience stores line mile after mile of busy highways. Instead, planners from the Department of Community Affairs recommended that commercial development should be clustered at the intersection of major thoroughfares.
And that is exactly what two development companies are hoping happens at the intersection of State Road 50 and Mariner Boulevard.
The Hernando County Planning and Zoning Commission gave tentative approval this week to two shopping centers there, one proposed by the Barclay Group of Clearwater, the other by a limited partnership led by Dallas-based Trammell Crow Co. The intersection already is the site of two shopping plazas. Should the new projects win final approval from the County Commission, the intersection of Mariner and SR 50 would become the most intensely developed in the county. The projects are scheduled for consideration March 6.
The planning board unanimously approved the Trammell Crow proposal and approved the Barclay project by a 4-1 vote. Robert Bubb, who was wary of future traffic problems, was the sole dissenter.
Others think the two centers will further congest an already bad
intersection. The Spring Hill Home and Property Owners Association is opposing the centers and has prepared a letter to the state Department of Transportation (DOT) outlining its complaints.
The DOT, however, is requiring that the two shopping centers pay for the addition of more lanes to SR 50 for up to one mile east and west of the intersection to handle the additional traffic. More than 20,000 cars a day used SR 50 east of Mariner in 1988, according to the latest DOT figures available.
However, Nick Konstandaras of the Spring Hill association said the main concern was with the additional traffic that will travel on Mariner Boulevard.
"Mariner is not going to be able to handle it," Konstandaras said.
But county planners say it depends on how you look at Mariner Boulevard. If it is considered a "rural" road under the DOT standards, the additional traffic will be too much, according to the planners' report.
But if it is considered an "urban" road, the amount of additional traffic will remain within acceptable levels, the report said.
The DOT sets different levels of performance for rural and urban roads because a higher level of congestion - and the longer travel times it brings - are among the prices residents pay for the conveniences of urban living, according to officials.