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Hernando commission approves private school move and expansion

Rezoning also was approved for the county’s first Nissan dealership.

BROOKSVILLE — Lynette Mackey talks about her efforts — to raise challenged students to be the best they can be — as a mission rather than a job. This week, county commissioners granted her permission to expand that mission.

The County Commission unanimously approved a master plan change that allows her to expand her eight-year-old program, called For Each 1 Reach 1, from a small storefront on Sunshine Grove Road to a five-acre commercial parcel she purchased a mile to the north at Montour Street and Sunshine Grove.

There, she plans to build her private school and operate programs before school, after school and on weekends. They will help students who have disabilities and special needs and those who have had minor run-ins with law enforcement. She wants to create an educational complex that includes a gymnasium, a large swimming pool, a splash pad and a playground.

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. It 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. Open hours would allow for services including a boot-camp type program and unstructured recreational time.

Commissioners expressed gratitude for the work that Mackey and her staff have done, and staff, a parent and a student spoke in strong support. Neighbors of the site didn’t share that enthusiasm.

They told county officials that they worry about what will happen with so much traffic in their quiet neighborhood, how they will be impacted if students leave the school and come into their community, and how the project will affect the Shrine Club located between the planned school and their homes.

Neighbor Terry Lyon said the project would cause "massive disruption to a residential neighborhood'' because of the increased traffic lined up on the road system. "I believe this is in the wrong place,'' he said.

Neighbor Jerry Haines said he was concerned about traffic, but also the long operating hours seven days a week at the site. He suggested a fence to separate the school from the neighbors.

Commissioners agreed to have their staff examine the traffic questions and agreed on the idea of a fence. Commissioner John Mitten, who has been involved in a number of nonprofit organizations over the years, said he has never heard a bad word about Mackey’s program or her clients.

He called her commitment to the cause "absolutely fantastic'' and said Mackey "has a plan and has demonstrated a lot of grit.''

In an unrelated land use decision, commissioners unanimously approved a rezoning that will allow Maus Nissan to build a 60,000-square-foot dealership on 13.6 acres south of Cortez Boulevard and east of the Suncoast Parkway. The new dealership would be immediately east of the Rick Matthews Buick GMC.

The dealership would be the county’s first Nissan dealer. It could include a body shop on the northern end of the parcel and allow for outdoor storage, primarily for vehicles. No time frame for development has yet been announced.

Commissioners were set to hear another controversial rezoning on Tuesday, one that would have permitted a gas station and convenience store on a 5.4-acre parcel at the corner of County Line Road and Cobblestone Drive in Spring Hill. That proposal, which involves a site originally planned as a future park, riled neighbors who thought they were buying next to green space.

Last month, the Planning and Zoning Commission voted to recommend denial, saying that the north side of County Line Road was established as residential rather than commercial use in the county’s comprehensive plan. On Tuesday, officials announced that the applicant, RKM Development Group, has asked for a delay on the hearing until January 14.

Commissioners agreed to the new hearing date.