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County pulls state into dispute over subdivision

The county has asked the state to block the city of Brooksville's plans to allow 999 houses and a shopping center in the Majestic Oaks subdivision on Mondon Hill Road.

Depending on who is asked, the petition sent to the state Division of Administrative Hearings is either a routine action to preserve the county's right to oppose the project or a sign of renewed hostilities between the city and the county.

Incoming City Council member Joe Bernardini said the petition may be a response to the city's decision last week to annex 900 acres south of downtown; Bernardini and County Commission Chairwoman Diane Rowden had asked the city to wait until three new council members are sworn into office.

"I don't know if this is just retaliation for the arrogance the council showed in the annexation,'' Bernardini said. "When you throw rocks, you got to expect rocks to be thrown back at you.''

Lawyers for the county, though, said they filed the petition to meet a state deadline. The City Council approved a comprehensive plan change in September that allowed Majestic Oaks to be enlarged to 999 homes.

The state Department of Community Affairs issued a notice Nov. 9 saying it planned to approve the change.

The county had 21 days to file a petition objecting to the approval and did so this week, though it still hopes to settle the issues without a court fight, said Assistant County Attorney Jon Jouben.

"We had to preserve our potential remedies,'' said Jouben, who added that the county also sent the city a letter Wednesday asking to mediate the dispute.

"Our direction from the (Commission) is to find a mutual resolution of this matter if possible.''

The size of Majestic Oaks and the annexation of the land are the latest in a long line of planning fights between the city and county. The county opposed the annexation, saying there was no agreement for development in the area.

The county also sued the city last month, claiming the plan to allow 999 houses at Majestic Oaks violates a 2005 agreement between the city and county setting the size of the development at 600 houses; the amount of space for stores and restaurants, 100,000 square feet, was not changed in the proposed comprehensive plan amendment.

Both the suit and the petition also say the city has not adequately planned for the traffic the project would pour onto Mondon Hill.

Soon after the suit was filed, the City Council and County Commission met to discuss the two issues. They agreed to have their staffers talk about the discussions to avoid the suit.

That spirit of cooperation seemed to break down with the council's annexation vote, Rowden said. The City Council "agreed to talk nicely and then annexed on their way out the door.''

Bill Geiger, Brooksville's community development director, has previously said that the annexation was not premature because the landowners have no definite plans to develop the land.

On Wednesday, he pointed out that the city had previously agreed to postpone the final vote on the annexation.

Dan DeWitt can be reached at dewitt@sptimes.com or (352)754-6116.

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