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Hernando commission moves supermajority repeal to public hearing

BROOKSVILLE — Making it easier to pass future changes in the county's comprehensive plan by eliminating the need for a supermajority vote would undermine the work of the county's professional planners, negatively affect the property values of residents and allow politically influential business leaders to more easily sway public officials to their benefit.

Those were among the arguments of county residents who this week urged the Hernando County Commission to maintain the status quo, which requires four votes to pass any change in the comp plan. Most other decisions require a simple majority of three votes from the five commissioners.

While this week's vote was simply to move the proposed repeal of the supermajority requirement to a final public hearing and vote at 5 p.m. May 9, the underlying sentiment on the commission was clearly favored ending it.

Commission Chairman Wayne Dukes initially brought up the issue several months ago. He also had tried last year, voicing concern that there would only be four commissioners when Commissioner Jeff Holcomb was called up by the Navy Reserve. Ironically, Holcomb, just before departing, cast the deciding vote that prevented the issue from moving forward last year.

Last month, the county's Planning and Zoning Commission voted unanimously to recommend that county commissioners keep the supermajority rule.

Honoring Holcomb's no vote on the change, supporting the planning commission's recommendation and the poor timing of considering the change just as the county is rewriting its comprehensive plan were all reasons to keep the supermajority rule, argued Chuck Greenwell, chairman of the government affairs committee of the Hernando Beach Property Owners Association.

The only reason to change the rule, Greenwell said, was "a fear of a rational and reasonable discussion needed to win the approval of four votes.''

DeeVon Quirolo, who strongly fought against an expansion of mining two years ago that would have required a comp plan change on property owned by prominent business leaders — a change thwarted by the supermajority rule — urged commissioners to keep it in place.

"It makes it difficult to change a land use for a reason,'' Quirolo said.

The rule was pushed by former county Commissioner Jeff Stabins. It was approved in 2005 against the strong lobbying efforts of business interests.

Richard Ross said there isn't a need to push for more home building right now.

"There is already enough home sites approved by this board over the past few years . . . to more than meet the needs for Hernando County identified by every organization that projects growth for 2030 and beyond,'' Ross said.

No one in the audience at the commission meeting spoke in favor of the repeal.

Dukes and Commissioner Steve Champion said they wanted to see the change to allow a simple majority of commissioners to be able to change the comp plan. Dukes noted that even changing the state Constitution only requires 60 percent of the vote. Requiring four votes for a comprehensive plan change could trample on a business' right to use their property, Champion argued.

"I think the supermajority hinders business,'' he said.

Commissioner John Allocco said he wanted to hear more discussion at the upcoming hearing and noted that, with a supermajority requirement, those who don't want a change only have to convince two commissioners to vote no, which he considered minority rule.

Commissioner Nick Nicholson said he agreed.

Contact Barbara Behrendt at bbehrendt@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1434.

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