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Plan would further limit growth density

The proposed limits on Hernando County development are getting tighter as county and state planners continue their negotiations to bring the county's comprehensive plan in line with state standards. The latest round of negotiations has resulted in a proposal that would limit development on 105,000 acres - one-third of the county, mostly in the central and southeast portions - to just one house per 10 acres.

Previous negotiations had produced a proposal to limit development to one house per five acres. The new proposal, sent to the state Department of Community Affairs (DCA) on Tuesday, leaves open the possibility that a small portion of the 105,000 acres might be eligible for the five-acre rule.

The County Commission will hold a public hearing on proposed changes to the comprehensive plan at 1:30 p.m. March 1 in the McKethan Auditorium at the Hernando County Fairgrounds.

The latest package of proposed changes also would require a building moratorium to take effect along overcrowded state roads once 10 percent more than the current level of traffic is added. Earlier proposals - and the current comprehensive plan - would require far more traffic to trigger a moratorium.

Jake Varn, the Tallahassee lobbyist who is leading the county's

negotiations with the DCA, said that DCA Secretary Thomas Pelham personally had asked for the tougher traffic standards.

The county stands to lose millions in state money if its growth plan does not conform with the requirements in the state's 1985 Growth Management Act.

Meanwhile, Brooksville lawyer Joe Mason is continuing to rally support for the idea of the county's business community hiring its own lawyer to monitor the ongoing negotiations to ensure that business interests are protected in the comprehensive plan.

A large group of business leaders, including Mason, the president of the Hernando County Chamber of Commerce, and David Laing, president of the West Hernando Chamber of Commerce, met Tuesday night to further explore the idea.

The Hernando Chamber, the Ridge Manor Area Chamber and the Hernando Committee of 100 all have approved the idea. Laing's group is scheduled to vote on it Feb. 22.

Because the comprehensive plan will determine the level of development in the county over the next 20 years - and thus greatly determine how the Hernando economy will perform - business leaders say they should be concerned with the plan and any proposed changes.

The business coalition members say they do not have a gripe with the county. They simply want to stay on top of what is going on.

"Our purpose is more of a fact-finding mission," said Buddy Selph, a real estate agent with Tommie Dawson Realty who attended the strategy session Wednesday.

"We have not said we are going to sue the county. We want to be aware, to be informed. . . . And we feel that what is good for the business community is good for the entire community," Selph said.

The county is trying to negotiate with the DCA to escape a weeklong administrative hearing on the plan scheduled for March 5. Mason said he supports the county's negotiations.

Comprehensive plan changes These are the major changes between the most recent plan proposal and one submitted Jan. 24: Residential: Limits development on 105,000 acres to one house per 10 acres. Future changes might allow a small portion to be built at one house per five acres. (Earlier, far more land would have been eligible for the one-house-per-five-acres ratio.) Commercial: Prohibits strip commercial development, except for U.S. 19 from County Line Road to State Road 50 and on SR 50 from High Point Boulevard to Colorado Street. (Earlier, exceptions were not made.) Traffic: Allows crowded state roads to handle 10 percent more traffic before a building moratorium is triggered. (Earlier, the level was 15 percent.)