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Hernando planners and planning commission say no to housing development on Powell Road

The proposal would place dense residential development in an area that is still rural, county planners say.

BROOKSVILLE — A 107-unit housing development proposed for a 38-acre parcel north of Powell Road and east of Raines Road got two thumbs down this week, one from Hernando County planning staff and the other from the county Planning and Zoning Commission.

Next month, county commissioners will have the final say on the proposal, which is dubbed the Westchester Preserve Development.

The site is surrounded largely by sparsely developed residential and agricultural uses. It is not near the types of infrastructure, including central sewer, needed by residential communities.

The applicant, Sycamore Engineering Inc., J.D. Alasabbagh, wants to change the site’s zoning from agricultural to planned development. Attorney Darryl Johnston and realtor Buddy Selph represented the applicant and said the use was appropriate for the site.

Recent rezoning hearings have included discussion about the market push for smaller house lots. Selph said that’s because smaller houses and lots are more affordable. He also said that Hernando County does not have a large enough inventory of homes available for purchase.

"We’re not building fast enough,'' he said, adding that this spot is ideal for the kinds of homes the developer hopes to have permitted.

A coalition of realtors, builders, the Chamber of Commerce, manufacturers and the Hernando Progress group plans to recommend changes to the county’s comprehensive plan, he said, and wants all of Spring Hill zoned as residential, rather than rural.

But county planners and Planning Commission members who listened to Monday’s pitch agreed that the parcel under consideration is not ready for that kind of development. It is not considered part of the urbanized area of Spring Hill, said county planning director Ron Pianta.

The area is considered residential on the county’s future land use map, Johnston said, pointing out that at "2.8 units per acre, it’s a lot less than what it could be.''

Pianta calculated the density at closer to five units per acre and said "the infrastructure is not really in this area to support the development.''

Nearby residents shared stories and pictures illustrating that their lands have flooded more frequently as development has moved in.

Tina Herliska said she moved to an adjacent property from St. Petersburg, because "we wanted a little bit of country,'' but the proposal would bring a density reminiscent of what she left behind.

"It just doesn’t seen compatible,'' said Planning Commission member Ronald Cohen. He acknowledged that the area might change someday but, "at this moment, it’s rural.''

The Planning Commission vote to recommend denial was unanimous.

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