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Development idea for rural land fails to win approval

The County Commission turned down a proposed comprehensive plan change that would have allowed some rural landowners to develop property bordering existing subdivisions.

The opponents to the proposal said it would allow development to spread into rural lands. Don Lacey of Coastal Engineering Associates Inc. said the proposed change had been carefully written to prevent this from happening.

Lacey said it applied only to five parcels in the county, none of them on the east side of the county.

Larry Jennings, the county planning director, recommended approval and told the commission he had suggested it to developer Gary Schraut.

Schraut had come to him seeking to develop a property north of the High Point subdivision. Instead of trying to change the future land use map, Jennings said, he told Schraut he would have a better chance with a policy change addressing such isolated rural parcels throughout the county.

The final version applied to lots 40 acres or smaller surrounded on at least two sides with lots of 1-acre or less. The proposed change prevented landowners from breaking up large parcels to qualify for the policy change.

Several residents spoke out against the change, however, including Pam Ward, a member of the Hernando Alliance for Open Lands Conservation.

"This is a horrible comp plan amendment," said Ward, who said she was worried about the possible "domino effect" of development spreading into rural areas.

Commissioner Chris Kingsley said he did not want to approve such a sweeping plan. But he agreed that some properties, especially the one north of High Point, should be allowed to develop more densely than its current level of one unit per 10 acres.

Lacey, who was representing Schraut's company, Marion City Investment Corp., noted that most of the commissioners agreed the parcel should be developed more densely.

But, without passing this amendment, "there's no way to get there. . . . That will probably be a little frustrating to the applicant."

Dan DeWitt can be reached at (352) 754-6116 or