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County slams state over freeway plans

The Hernando County Commission adopted a resolution Tuesday condemning the state for routing a proposed expressway through an existing subdivision rather than a pricier, undeveloped one.

"There's no water, there's no sewer, there's no curbing, there's nothing there," said commission Chairman John Richardson of the proposed Silverthorn development in south-central Hernando County.

The state Department of Transportation has decided, however, to spare Silverthorn, or specifically four golf holes that the homes will be built around. Instead, the North Suncoast Corridor Expressway will demolish four homes in the northeastern corner of partly developed, nearby Pristine Place.

The commission acted on the resolution in response to complaints made by residents of Pristine Place.

The residents, several of whom attended Tuesday's meeting, were angry, not about the people who will have to be relocated, but about the property values and living conditions of those who remain.

"Those four who are being relocated are the lucky ones," said Annabelle Hills, who spoke for the group before the commission.

The other residents are being punished "because someone put a paper obstacle in their path," she said.

She also said the current route also skirts Powell Middle School and creates two additional overpasses, crossing and recrossing Anderson Snow Road.

"This is going to create a noisy, unsafe environment" for Powell students, she said.

Despite the angry words of residents and commissioners, DOT's plans are not likely to change, said Don Skelton, one of the project engineers for the agency.

"This decision is based on what will do the most good for the most people," he said.

The people, in particular, it would help are taxpayers, he said. Running the corridor through Pristine Place, even though it requires the construction of two more overpasses, would be about $10-million cheaper than running it through the heart of Silverthorn.

The department earlier said that one consideration in determining the route was an $11.3-million bond issue that developers obtained to build Silverthorn.

Commissioner Harold Varvel suggested the real reason was a fear of higher-priced lawyers.

"Lawyers will bluff, won't they Bruce?" Varvel jokingly asked County Attorney Bruce Snow.

Commissioner June Ester at one point asked Skelton whether the county could forbid the road if it wanted to. Skelton said it could.

"I would take the position that I would just as soon you reroute it out of our county," she then said.

Other commissioners, including Richardson and Ginny Brown-Waite, both said they do not want to jeopardize the financial benefits of the corridor, but they are firmly opposed to it cutting though Pristine Place.

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