BROOKSVILLE — Eight years ago, Lynette Mackey started a program to help troubled Hernando County youngsters and their families succeed, teaching them to invest in and believe in themselves.
Dubbed “For Each 1 Reach 1,” the program has grown over the years. Mackey now hopes to bring it to a larger site nearby and build an educational complex that includes a gymnasium, a large swimming pool, a splash pad and a playground.
She will take her dream to the Hernando County Commission next week after getting a thumbs up from the county Planning and Zoning Commission last month.
But the project doesn’t please everyone. Neighbors of the 5-acre parcel at Sunshine Grove Road and Montour Street say they congratulate Mackey for her work with youth, but think the facility belongs somewhere else.
Neighbors worry that the added 500-plus vehicle trips per day, long weekend hours and a clientele that includes young people referred by the court system will wreck the security of their community.
Mackey’s plan includes two 6,550-square-foot classroom and administration buildings, a 7,000-square-foot activity center and gymnasium, and a 900-square-foot equipment building. The plan also calls for a 7,900-square-foot building for future expansion.
The nonprofit school would have the capacity for 10 staff and 135 students in kindergarten through eighth grade. Her program includes before- and after-school services and weekend programs. Open hours would allow for services including a boot-camp type program and unstructured recreational time.
"We work with youth that come from the court that commit misdemeanors,'' Mackey told planning commissioners. "We want to get them on the right track.''
Mackey, who has military experience and law enforcement training, explained that the program is all about responsibility.
"We don’t condone their behavior,'' she said. "We help them to understand that they are the best investment they can make, and they must believe in themselves.''
Her patrons include students who struggle in school, those with special needs and even parents who need to learn how to support and help their children, Mackey said. The extra activities and field trips during non-school hours help to keep them out of trouble.
"We’re building families. We’re building community, and we’re loving what we do,'' she said. "We just need more space.''
The property that Mackey has chosen is zoned for commercial use. She needs the county to add an educational facility designation. But nearby residents lined up to voice their concerns.
"It’s an extreme amount of traffic on that little road,'' said neighbor Jerry Haines. "It’s just a local road.''
"This will be more devastating to our community than a bomb,'' said Terry Lyon who lives 400 feet from the property. "You’re talking about a tremendous density.''
Lyon pointed out that the neighborhood is rural.
"I have no problem with what she’s doing,'' he said. "I do have a problem with putting this type of facility in the area where we live.''
Art Gaura is new to the area, but said "we loved that fact that it was a country feel, but close to all the amenities ... I feel that this will take away from that country feel.''
Jane Gaura took that concern a step further.
“We’re talking about troubled kids who have been kicked out of school,” she said. "It’s very easy for troubled kids to jump over (the fence) and get into neighborhoods.''
The children in her program are misdemeanor offenders who have fought in school or shoplifted. Mackey said, and they already attend her existing program a mile or so away on Sunshine Grove.
"They are not bad kids. They have just made bad decisions,'' she said. "I just decided to do something about it.''
Planning commission members asked Mackey about her hours of operation, details of her programs and transportation plans once the schools get started. They then voted unanimously to recommend that the County Commission approve the facility.