BROOKSVILLE — Plans by a Tampa resident to turn 40 acres off Rester Drive into a sand pit were dashed last week when the Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously turned down a conditional use permit allowing him to excavate.
Residents adjacent to the parcel argued passionately that the plan proposed by Chris Carollo would destroy their rural lifestyle, fill their neighborhood with dust and noise, depreciate their homes and cripple the ability to access their property on a dirt road that is partially privately maintained and just one-vehicle wide.
Planning commission members were also concerned about the access and road safety even though the applicant's representative, Darryl Johnston, argued he would provide a road safety, access and maintenance plan which would address all of those concerns to the satisfaction of county engineer Scott Herring.
Carollo's property is on the northern side of the end of Rester Drive, after it passes over and to the east of the Suncoast Parkway. Johnston explained that the sand was needed for area roads and projects, that concerns about harm to water wells were unfounded and that the access road would be maintained by the land owner for the life of the sand mining process.
But neighbors objected.
William Hanlon and his family chose their nearby home because of the pastoral nature of the area. After 54 years working, he said he found where he wanted to retire. But "this will be a sand pit in my front yard,'' which he called "outrageous to this community.''
Michael Reiff said he and his wife are disabled veterans and all they want is to "continue our peace and tranquility.''
Nearby resident Judy Hanlon said she wanted her grandchildren to grow up in a rural, country setting like she did rather than more dangerous and crime-ridden communities to the south. "It was quiet with a big sky and a big yard to run and play in,'' she told the planning commission.
All that will change with a sand pit in the neighborhood, she said.
The owner, "he may have a passion for his project, but we also have a passion for our neighborhood to remain as it is not only for us but for our children,'' Hanlon said.
Planning commission members voiced special concerns about the road conditions.
Driving on Rester Drive, said member Ronald Cohen, "it's currently half a nightmare and putting trucks on there, we're going to have a full nightmare.''
On a single-lane road, having to direct residential traffic around trucks, which could be coming and going from the site every few minutes during the busiest times according to Johnston, would "put an unfair burden on the people who live there,'' Cohen said.
Ryan Imerson pointed out that a recent fire in the neighborhood required fire trucks to park down the road because they couldn't get close enough. Firefighters had to carry their equipment a ways to get to the fire and put it out. If someone wanted to mine sand, why not buy land already established for mining, he asked.
Frank DeFrancesco, a nearby resident who is also a captain with Hernando County Fire Rescue, pointed out that the road condition is on ongoing problem for public safety providers.
"I can tell you our access to the end of this road is very difficult at best,'' DeFrancesco said. That concerned planning commission member Lynn Gruber-White.
"If emergency vehicles can't get down there, how are these trucks going to get down there?'' she said.
Johnston said he agreed that currently the road won't support such truck use. But with the approval of the use permit, "we have an obligation to maintain and improve that road so it can happen.''
As for concerns about changing the rural nature of the area, Johnston said that would happen anyway since the county has long-term plans for Rester Drive to someday be a larger collector road running east to west through that area.
Planning commission members also voiced concern that the trucks, once they leave Rester Drive, will travel south on Grove Road. When they get to Cortez Boulevard, any turning to the east will first have to turn west, then go to a median cut and turn back around to the east causing additional truck traffic in that congested area near the Suncoast Parkway interchange.
Johnston responded to other concerns about trucks traveling near the schools just to the west of the intersection of Rester and Grove by saying the sand trucks would not use that route.
The planning commission's vote on the permit is usually the final say on such projects, but the applicant can appeal to the County Commission for a rehearing.
Contact Barbara Behrendt at email@example.com or (352) 848-1434.