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  1. Hernando

Too many houses in too small an area. Hernando commissioners deny housing project rezoning off Powell Road.

Oakwood Forest proposal had too many houses on too small a property, commissioners ruled.
DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times Hernando County Courthous
Published Jan. 27

BROOKSVILLE — There aren't many times when a lesson from Sesame Street has a direct application in a Hernando County Commission land-use decision. But last month, there was one.

Commissioner John Mitten used the teaching concept of "one of these things is not like the other'' to help him determine that a proposed housing development south of Oakwood Acres and north of Powell Road was not a good fit.

The proposed Oakwood Forest community would have held 144 homes on 37 acres. But nearby neighbors, including many from Oakwood Estates, argued for months that the site was never meant for such a densely-packed community.

In fact, several residents showed commissioners the map that developer Gloria Williams showed them years ago. It indicated about the same housing density as their own community, which has lots of at least an acre.

Commissioners unanimously denied the rezoning for Oakwood Forest last month, which likely torpedoed the sale of the property for Williams.

Developer representative Alan Garman said he had "bent over backwards'' cooperating with the county and the community to make the subdivision work. He changed the entrance, reduced the number of homes, paid for a traffic study and agreed to utility and traffic improvements required by the county.

Also, the property was never part of the original land plat for Oakwood Acres, he said, and was not bound by Oakwood Acres restrictions.

Even as the number of homes shrunk, the Oakwood Forest plan still was not acceptable to neighbors. Already, they are challenged by Powell Road traffic, especially when nearby schools are opening or letting out for the day.

Garman argued that he needed a certain density of housing to make the development viable.

"While we understand the county's commitment to development, growth and prosperity, we believe that growth must be balanced by the impacts such development has on safety, infrastructure, existing home values and the quality of life for all,'' said Sandy Roth, a resident of Oakwood Estates for more than 15 years.

"It cannot be our concern or yours, for that matter, that any individual's proposed development be made profitable for a developer," she said. "It's their challenge to find a property that is suitable to their needs."

Joanna Carricato's two acres back up to the property proposed for development. She said she bought her site because she was told that the home density next door would be similar.

"This is intentional fraudulent real estate sales to those of us in Oakwood Acres,'' she told commissioners.

Resident and retired dentist Douglas Roth, who served as president of the community's property owners association after they took it over from Williams more than a decade ago, shared that concern.

"What she had promised in the way of density is what the purchasers of the property counted on,'' he said.

Residents and commissioners also questioned the developers' traffic study, which did not raise concerns about how hard it is to turn out of the community and onto Powell Road.

Commissioner John Allocco asked whether a traffic study might show a low number of cars on the road because they were all stuck in traffic for so long.

Both the county and residents were concerned that a rezoning might set a precedent for developing a sister parcel. Residents also opposed previous efforts to rezone in the area. Part of the concern has been that the county plans to widen and improve Powell, but not for another decade.

Previous coverage: Residents voice objections to proposed rezoning along Powell Road

Ultimately, Commissioner Steve Champion — an Oakwood Acres resident — made the motion to deny the rezoning based on its density.

"We want to see houses there,'' he said, but only in the appropriate numbers. He also expressed concern about promises made to residents by the original developer.

Those home buyers, he said, "were sold a bill of goods.''

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

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