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  1. Hernando

Planning board balks at master plan revision sought for Trails at Rivard

Hernando County Government Center
Published Jun. 14

BROOKSVILLE — Another proposal to shrink lot sizes and increase density in a planned residential community has brought a negative reaction from county officials.

The latest case came last week when the Planning and Zoning Commission voted to recommend that the County Commission deny a request by the Trails at Rivard to upgrade a master plan by adding more houses on smaller lots.

Previous coverage: Hernando Commission says no to another development with small lots

The Rivard plan needed updating because it has expired. The community was originally approved in 1990 and the plan was updated in 2005. But the building bust a decade ago stopped that plan from happening, developer representative Richard Matassa of A Civil Design Group, explained.

He said that the Rivard Development Corporation was seeking 325 units in the next phase with lots of 4,800 square feet and 6,000 square feet. County planning staff, however, were recommending sticking with the proposal outlined in 2005, which was 240 units and lots of 5,500 and 7,700 square feet.

County staff noted that the average lot size of the already-developed areas of Rivard is approximately 14,000 square feet.

Matassa pushed for the higher density saying a two-lane U.S. 41 limited access in the past but that road was widened years ago allowing more capacity. He also said that there would be more green space.

"The market is not one for larger lots,'' he said.

Previous coverage: Too many houses in too small an area, commission says

Residents and county officials raised a variety of concerns about the proposal.

Representing the Hernando County schools, James Lipsey stated that the increase would generate more students for nearby public schools and that, regardless of the number of houses, the nearby elementary schools had no additional student capacity.

Homeowners mentioned that small lots mean residents are so close they can talk from porch to porch without raising their voices, or jump from one roof to another, if they were so inclined.

But because of the configuration of the Trails at Rivard, more houses more tightly packed would overwhelm the limited transportation system including the challenging fact that there is just one road in and out and it crosses a railroad track. If a train should stall there, "we're sitting ducks,'' said Debra Rodriguez, vice president of the Rivard homeowner's board of directors.

With an area prone to flooding and falling trees, mobility in and out of the community could be a challenge, she told the planning commission members. Several other citizen comments opposing the proposal were also included in the packet to planning commission members. One resident submitted a 10-page report to the county detailing history and his concerns about the changes proposed. It included maps, charts and graphs.

"I recognize that a decision of this type must consider the rights of the owners seeking to develop their property according to county ordinances and land use regulations. Yet the county must also consider the rights of the existing land owners adversely impacted by the development,'' wrote resident Paul Johnson. "In the interests of protecting public health, safety and welfare, as well as providing an adequate level of transportation service on the public road network, I respectfully request the county decline this proposal as submitted, pending a more detailed traffic impact analysis and mitigation plan — for which the governing body has a right and, in my view, the responsibility to request — and thereafter limit the size and density of the development to one that does not overwhelm the capacity of Rivard Boulevard,'' he wrote.

Resident Jerome Imhoff wrote that the April 11 public information workshop, which the developer held about the plan, "was both disappointing and frustrating.''

Imhoff explained that, "the presenter was not prepared for the questions asked and angrily closed the meeting after only 11 minutes, unable to render even a shred of pertinent information.''

He said the developer's representative "made it clear that the expansion will go forward regardless of any legitimate concerns of the current residents.''

Planning Commission member Lynn Gruber-White said, "I know that our County Commission, that they have expressed that they are concerned about all these small lots and so am I.''

While planning commission member John Scharch said he could understand approving the smaller number of housing units, he could not see going with the number the developer was seeking, especially given the fact that there is not a current plan to improve access into and out of the subdivision.

"I really can't see increasing the density'' unless that issue is addressed, he said.

The County Commission will have the final say on the master plan update request.

Contact Barbara Behrendt at bbehrendt@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1434.

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