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Hernando commissioners poised to sell park sites to state rep’s homebuilding company

County commissioners have pushed to get rid of county-owned real estate. They plan to sell six lots in Spring Hill to state Rep. Blaise Ingoglia’s Hartland Homes.
Hernando County Government Center    Times (2018)
Hernando County Government Center Times (2018)
Published Oct. 24, 2019

BROOKSVILLE — When northerners flocked to sunny Hernando County years ago to look at home sites in a planned community called Spring Hill, they saw a clear vision of their neighborhoods by looking at a community plan.

Schools, churches, parks and public buildings were scattered among the thousands of home sites, helping them decide where to build their dream retirement homes.

But the paper plan never fully developed in Spring Hill. The Deltona Corporation had deeded the park lands to Hernando County, but the county never built all of the parks.

Early next month, Hernando County commissioners will decide whether to declare nearly 40 acres of park land as surplus and sell it to Hartland Homes, the homebuilding company of politically-influential Blaise Ingoglia. Ingoglia is a state representative from Spring Hill and the former head of the state and local Republican Party chapters.

Ingoglia’s company made an unsolicited bid for the sites, according to the commission’s agenda packet. There was no public discussion about opening these sites up for bidders, but the county has an ongoing list of county-owned sites available for purchase.

Commissioners were set to make the sale on Tuesday, but a glitch in the paperwork forced them to delay action until their Nov. 5 meeting.

The five Republican commissioners will consider selling six lots for $408,000, slightly higher than the appraised value determined by the county staff of $10,000 per acre.

"In light of the type of offer made, a representative park site was selected and an appraisal was ordered so an extrapolation could be made on a cost per acre to compare the values,'' according to the board agenda packet.

County Property Appraiser John Emerson set the value of the parcels at $389,000.

While they are zoned differently than park land, a cursory view of home sites currently on the market in Spring Hill has quarter-acre lots on a variety of real estate sites going for more than $10,000.

Commissioners have said repeatedly they want to sell surplus county land, in part because it can generate property tax revenue from homeowners who will live on those sites. Last month, the commission hired real estate broker Robert Buckner, another politically influential local businessman, to provide them realty and marketing services.

There are several connections between Ingoglia and sitting commissioners.

Commission Chairman Jeff Holcomb recently became a real estate associate, and his Facebook page has featured Hartland Homes advertisements. Holcomb is chairman of the Hernando County Republican Executive Committee, a position previously held by Ingoglia. Commissioner John Allocco also held that position.

The park sites under consideration include: 8 acres on Sheffield Road; 5.4 acres on Oleta Street; 8 acres on Norvell Road; 5.5 acres on Laredo Avenue; 6.3 acres on Pinehurst Drive; and 5.7 acres on Holiday Drive.

The return to a robust homebuilding environment has prompted other conflicts between redevelopment plans and neighboring residents.

Last week, residents around the Oak Hill Golf Course came to the county Planning and Zoning Commission meeting to oppose plans by Benge Development Corporation and the golf course owner. The developer wants to replace the driving range and maintenance barn site with closely-packed villa homes.

Planning commissioners recommended approving changes to the comprehensive plan and the zoning to allow 90 homes on the 20 acres north of Northcliffe Boulevard and west of Puritan Lane

Previously approved for a hotel, rental villas and a 500-seat convention center and restaurant that never happened, the land runs behind single-family homes. Residents there worried about traffic, drainage problems and the loss of the green space and privacy they counted on when they bought alongside dedicated recreational lands.

"We’re going to lose our woods. We’re going to lose our privacy. We’re going to lose all the animals that live in there that we see all the time,'' said James Hoover, a resident of Puritan Lane adjacent to the proposed rezoning.

Some residents worried that their golf course lots would be devalued. Project representative Alan Garman said the golf course owner didn’t want to see that happen, but acknowledged that it has in other communities.

One is the Seville community off Commercial Way in northwestern Hernando County. That golf course failed and was planted with timber by the owner.

The idea of repurposing golf courses concerned Planning Commission member John Scharch. He said that filling green space left behind by failing golf courses with new homes "could be problematic for government in the future.''

County commissioners will hear the application by the Benge Development Corporation in the coming months.