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DeWitt: On a site in Hernando perfect for a subdivision, owners want a mine

Published Dec. 18, 2014

It was kind of strange — representatives of a rich corporate client telling the Hernando County Commission that housing was a lousy idea for the land they had in mind.

There's no development pressure, no demand, no need for more homes, more lots, more subdivisions. With our current rate of growth, they said to the commission, we have plenty.

For years, of course, we heard just the opposite. Development was on its way. Growth was inevitable. We had to be ready.

And we didn't just hear this during the boom. As late as 2011 — when demand really was zero — development lawyers somehow convinced the commission we needed a city of 13,000 more residents at the Quarry Preserve development.

The difference isn't the market, of course; it's the desires of the owners of a given parcel of land and the people who have plans for it. It's usually about what they want to do.

In 2011, owners wanted to change their land use from mining to (mostly) residential.

At the commission meeting last week, the goal was to change the designation of land — 573 acres west of Brooksville where Cemex hopes to extract lime rock — to mining from residential.

And you know what's really strange?

The one place touted as no good for a subdivision — at least for the next two decades — is the one place where it would be perfect.

The land is on the county's major east-west highway, State Road 50, a few miles east of the county's main commercial hub at Mariner Boulevard.

It's close enough by car — or bus or, with a planned trail, bicycle — that residents could easily get to downtown Brooksville, which would have the added advantage of providing this district with a much-needed customer base.

There's easy access to the Suncoast Parkway and even easier access to a hospital, Bayfront Health Brooksville, right across the street.

The Sheriff's Office is just down the street, and utility lines to the city of Brooksville lie just below ground. To top it off, the county plans to build a major north-south road right through this property.

As I said, perfect. Take out a map of the county and look for another large parcel that could take such good advantage of public and private investment. I'm pretty sure you won't find one. And I can guarantee you won't find it at the site of the Quarry, a mining pit 6 miles north of Brooksville.

You won't find it at Lake Hideaway, which is planned for that major crossroads of Star Road and Weeping Willow Street and is owned by one of the owners of the future (sorry, folks, but I'm afraid it's pretty much inevitable) mine, Tommy Bronson.

It's not at another planned-but-not-yet-built subdivision, Majestic Oaks, on property owned by Bronson and others on a two-lane road east of Brooksville. It's not at several other far-flung parcels where the county or city of Brooksville has approved development but where construction has not yet started.

The owners of the mine site, by the way, agree that it will be right for housing eventually. They just say it's not ready now. And you have to think that if they could cash out on residential development in the short term, they would. So maybe they're right.

But I bet there would be more demand for housing where it fits if we didn't allow it in so many places where it doesn't.