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Large sheds get commission's attention

Prompted by a shed in Diane Rowden's neighborhood, the commission narrowly decides to look into the issue.

Hernando County Commissioner Diane Rowden can't help but notice her neighbor's shed as she drives through the Royal Highlands subdivision.

At 40 feet long and 16 feet wide, it's as big as a house.

Rowden's other neighbors have taken notice, too, and many have called her and the Code Enforcement Department to complain that the metallic shed standing atop bare concrete blocks is an eyesore.

But the prefab building complies with the county code. And therein lies the problem, Rowden said.

On Tuesday, she proposed that the commission set new standards for accessory structures before the number of oversized sheds explodes. The commission narrowly moved the issue forward, with Commissioners Rowden, Betty Whitehouse and Nancy Robinson supporting additional study.

"It's important when something like this comes up to at least explore whether this is a problem," Whitehouse said.

Chairman Chris Kingsley argued that oversized sheds have not been a problem during his two years on the commission and said he saw no reason to spend time looking into the issue. He said the commission should not waste its resources creating ordinances to tackle tiny matters.

Robinson countered that the commission should create reasonable standards before the situation becomes a major problem, rather than waiting and then reacting. Rowden noted that the commission had set single-family home compatibility standards when people in Royal Highlands complained about manufactured housing in their subdivision.

The homes that prompted that lengthy negotiation with manufactured home builders were the same size as the sheds now in question, Rowden said. At the very least, she said, the county should have rules that govern the size, look and use of the sheds in areas where deed restrictions do not control them.

Hernando County last changed its accessory structures ordinance more than 30 years ago. It allows buildings of any size on the side or in back of a home, as long as they meet setback requirements of 5 feet from the lot line.

The ordinance does not deal with aesthetics, either. Complicating matters, manufacturers now are building sheds that look just like mobile homes but are sold for storage rather than housing, Development Director Grant Tolbert said.

"We have to accept them," Tolbert said.

Residents John Tenini and Peggy Cartwright urged the commission to stiffen the rules as soon as possible. These "alleged storage sheds" look "terrible," Tenini said.

Tolbert and Planning Director Larry Jennings said they would look into the issue and report their findings and recommendations to the commission in about a month.