BROOKSVILLE — Twice in recent months, the Hernando County Planning and Zoning Commission has given a thumbs down to development plans after nearby residents said they didn’t fit in with the neighborhood.
On Tuesday, the County Commission overrode one of those recommendations and approved plans for a gas station and convenience store adjacent to residential areas along County Line Road. But they sent plans for a housing development on rural Powell Road back for possible revisions.
The gas station project by RKM Development is at Cobblestone Drive and County Line Road. The 5.4-acre site is one of several properties deeded to the county years ago by the Deltona Corporation as a future park site. Commissioners have been selling off those sites as surplus lots, much to the dismay of some long-time residents who bought homes next to the green space.
In this case, members of the Spring Hill Calvary Church of the Nazarene, which is adjacent to the site, said they wanted to buy the property after they got a letter saying it was up for sale. They called the county, said church member Katrina Bivona, but were told that the offer was a mistake and the site was under contract.
The development’s representatives, Don Lacey of Coastal Engineering and Gary Schraut of Century 21 Alliance Realty, attended Tuesday’s meeting. The two had tried to set up a meeting with residents, Lacey said, although residents disputed that.
There are no other commercial uses on their stretch of the road, residents argued. They worried about crime and traffic from the gas station and about noise from the proposed car wash interrupting the peace of their community.
Bennett Klinert’s new home backs up to the site. He is worried about his home’s value and the "riff raff'' the business will bring.
“This is not going to be good for our neighborhood,'' he said. "We’re going to be the ones most effected by this.''
The gas station and convenience store make perfect sense on the site, Lacey said, because County Line is a major road and the intersection has a traffic signal.
Commissioners were pleased that the developer plans to build on the front third of the site, along County Line Road, but leave the back undeveloped, with a retention pond and existing trees.
"I can’t think of anything else that’s going to give more buffer to the community,'' said Commissioner John Allocco. Allocco and Commissioner Jeff Holcomb, who have defended the commission’s sale of park sites, said there was “nothing nefarious” about this sale or project.
Commissioner Steve Champion wanted one of the two proposed Cobblestone Drive entrances removed to avoid traffic backing up. He also asked for a limit on the hours of the car wash so neighbors wouldn’t have to hear it late at night or in the early morning. And he wanted to ensure a 50-foot buffer between the adjacent home owners and the project.
Commissioners unanimously approved that deal, although one neighbor left the meeting loudly complaining that they did not protect his property.
The second case commissioners heard Tuesday was proposed by Sycamore Engineering Inc., J.D. Alasabbagh. Represented by attorney Darryl Johnston and realtor Buddy Selph, the property owner wants to build 107 homes on a 38-acre parcel north of Powell Road and east of Raines Road.
As with the other project, the county Planning and Zoning Commission had recommended denial. In this case, the county planning staff also recommended denial. It is far from needed utilities, they said, and does not match housing plans in the surrounding area, which are on much larger sites.
Residents agreed that the plan didn’t fit in their neighborhood and showed pictures of flooding they believe was caused by other housing communities built in the area.
Selph argued that the county needs the development, because it doesn’t have enough housing stock to meet demand.
"Frankly, it’s just in the wrong location,'' said county planning director Ron Pianta, suggesting the developer could afford to bring water and sewer to the subdivision and prepare for the impact on already-overcrowded Powell Road.
“It’s not the board’s job to make a development affordable to a developer,” Allocco said. "It’s just not our job.''
Johnston asked for more time to address some of the county’s concerns.
Commissioners voted 4-1 to allow that delay. Only Champion opposed the motion, because he favored an outright denial.