BROOKSVILLE — Many in Spring Hill see their community as fairly complete. Most neighborhoods are lined with homes, commercial areas are filled with businesses, and streets are busy with traffic.
But tucked inside the square formed by Mariner Boulevard, Spring Hill Drive, Deltona Boulevard and Northcliffe Boulevard are approximately 450 acres of green, undeveloped land.
That could soon change.
Hernando County planners have received an application for a new development that could include as many as 3,000 homes. It would have a town center with businesses, mixed-use structures, multi-story condominiums and apartments. It could include bike trails and a transit hub.
The Spring Center Planned Development District, according to the application, would "include the elements necessary to evolve into a center of activity for the surrounding Spring Hill community.''
The project would require an amendment to the county's comprehensive plan.
It has been several years since a project of this size has come to the county, long after the building boom of the early 2000s and the bust that followed a dozen years ago.
"A tract this size is a great opportunity to show off the latest and greatest in planning,'' said Buddy Selph, a long time Hernando County realtor. "We're excited about seeing it develop.''
However, the project is prompting the perennial Florida concerns about growth.
At a County Commission meeting earlier this month, Hernando resident Barbara Bartlett showed a map of the development disseminated at a public workshop. She talked to people who bought property in Spring Hill because it backed up to these woods, she told commissioners, or because they wanted out of the congested areas of St. Petersburg.
The residents' concerns were different, she said, but each comment had the same ending — "not happy.''
The sentiment was dispatched quickly by county attorney Garth Coller.
"There is no expectation to do with permanence when it comes to land,'' he said. Residents cannot stop growth, he added, unless they buy all the land they don't want developed.
The Spring Center site is "a donut hole in the middle of Spring Hill,'' said planner Don Lacey of Coastal Engineering, who represents the developer. The plan reflects a different type of community than exists in Spring Hill.
"They built a community without a center, without a heart,'' Lacey said. Spring Center would be ringed with a buffer between its buildings and existing developed lots.
The outer ring would be for single-family homes, with multi-family homes inside that. At the center would be commercial buildings, private and government offices.
"Think of it as a sort of downtown, a town center for Spring Hill,'' Lacey said, one that will draw both new residents and the existing Spring Hill population.
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"It's a very large project. It's very complicated,'' said Ron Pianta, the county development services director.
Pianta couldn't say much more at the meeting.
Strict rules limit the information commissioners can consider in a formal land-use meeting, so prior non-sworn testimony is a problem.
Still, the paperwork generated by the developer, Hernando County-based TTG Properties, is detailed.
The project is south and west of Explorer K-8 school. County staffers and agency representatives have begun discussing how to handle traffic patterns and the expected influx of students as buildings go up.
County staffers also have discussed developing a well field on the property to produce more drinking water for the county. They've talked about road impacts, which could be significant, and the need for a new fire station, because surrounding stations are among the busiest in the county.
The project narrative says the type of housing will vary depending on market conditions, but could include townhomes, multi-story condominiums and apartment buildings. It also describes mixed-use buildings with dwelling units over retail establishments or offices.
The central hub of Spring Center would be available for small parks, a cultural center, outside seating and public art displays. The developer is pitching a transit center, as well, because of the large number of residents.
A coordinated architectural design would have buildings fronting on sidewalks, curbside parking instead of parking lots, underground utilities and common decorative signs.
Phase 1 of the project would go up between 2020 and 2030, and include 750 single-family and 750 multi-family residential units. Phase 2 runs 2030 to 2040, with the same numbers of units.
TTG Properties and the land slated for development are owned by Mark and Sharon Taylor of Hernando County. Mark Taylor is a former member of the county's Planning and Zoning Commission, which will host the first public hearing on the development.
The first round of hearings likely will be in March with an April hearing before the County Commission; it will focus on changes to the comprehensive plan.
The second round likely will be this summer and cover the rezoning application.
Construction likely won't start for a couple of years, Lacey said.
Selph said the project is a taste of things to come, and reminds him of the end of another recession when the Silverthorn development was built.
"People are going to be happy to see it because it's been so dark for so long,'' he said.
Contact Barbara Behrendt at email@example.com or (352) 848-1434.