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Spring Hill incorporation plan gaining momentum

A citizens group plans to meet within two weeks to consider making a push for the Hernando County community to become a city. A civic association is also addressing the issue.

Within two weeks, there may be two groups exploring incorporation of Spring Hill.

Late last year, Spring Hill Civic Association President Jim McLaughlin talked about forming a blue-ribbon committee to study the feasibility of Spring Hill becoming a city.

Frustrated that months have gone by without the committee taking shape, another group has emerged. The group is headed by Tom and Barbara Troisi of the GlenLakes community, the same couple who this year have been pitching to bring spring training baseball to Hernando County.

Tom Troisi said he plans to convene a committee of about 14 members within the next two weeks to begin looking into incorporation.

"At this point, we're gathering our information," Troisi said.

That included a recent trip to Deltona, a planned community that, like Spring Hill, was developed by the Mackle brothers, and which four years ago became a city. The Troisis and Bill and Donna Fagan of Spring Hill met for more than six hours with Deltona's mayor and other city officials to discuss the details of incorporation. They returned with Deltona's incorporation feasibility study, its budget and city charter.

The Troisis planned to go to Palm Coast, which has scheduled a public hearing Tuesday on the merits of incorporation.

Ultimately, Troisi said, the group would like to approach the County Commission to see if it will pay for a feasibility study. In Deltona, that study cost $30,000.

"Until we do a study, we don't know if it's definitely a good thing for the community," Troisi said. "We might end up with a report in a year and a half that says we really can't and shouldn't incorporate. It might be too expensive. We don't know."

But Troisi thinks it will show just the opposite.

"In my heart, it says they should go for incorporation," Troisi said. "I think they're big enough to control themselves."

Bill Fagan, president of the Oak Hills Unit 23 Home Owners Association, said he talked to civic association officials: "It doesn't seem to be a high priority for them at this time. I just felt it was time for some people to step forward."

McLaughlin said the civic association is serious about studying the issue. In fact, McLaughlin said, he plans to name a blue-ribbon committee to study incorporation within two weeks.

McLaughlin said he was unaware of the Troisis' efforts and was a bit perplexed, as the Troisis live in GlenLakes, north of Weeki Wachee. McLaughlin said Cortez Boulevard would be the northernmost boundary if Spring Hill were to incorporate.

As for the delays in convening its committee, McLaughlin said the civic association was tied up with other issues earlier in the year. Besides, he said, there is no real hurry as incorporation would not come up for a vote until the fall of 2000 at the earliest.

McLaughlin plans a bus trip to Deltona to look into its incorporation experience. He hopes both pro- and anti-incorporation people will come along, "so they can raise the issues that have to be answered sooner or later."

"Deltona is like a sister city to us," McLaughlin said. "We're very compatible. And they've done all the groundwork."

Like their counterparts in Deltona, Spring Hill residents have made two unsuccessful bids for incorporation. The first came in a 1986 referendum. Incorporation was soundly defeated by a 3-1 ratio. Most opponents feared incorporation would be a money pit.

In 1988, a new pro-incorporation group surfaced, and an anti-incorporation group quickly formed to oppose it. The second large-scale push died without a referendum after state Rep. Chuck Smith received letters from 3,700 Spring Hill residents opposed to incorporation. McLaughlin said the panel will serve strictly as a fact-finding body and will not take sides on the issue.

Troisi and Fagan said they, too, will reserve final judgment until a feasibility study is completed, but both are convinced it will be to Spring Hill's benefit to become a city.

"I believe firmly in my heart it would be a good thing for the community," Fagan said. "It would mean better services for our community and better value for our taxes. It may even benefit the county.

"But we may find in our studies there's not quite the benefit we thought and that it's better to stay unincorporated," Fagan said. "I think it's something we should look into."

Both McLaughlin and Troisi said their camps would like to work together.

"I'd be glad to have them aboard," McLaughlin said. "I've got no problem with them joining forces with us."