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Tuesday, Sep 25, 2018
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Planning board gives nod to Spring Center project

BROOKSVILLE — The Spring Center mixed-use community proposed for a 450-acre undeveloped area in the middle of Spring Hill got its first nod of acceptance Monday from the Hernando County Planning and Zoning Commission.

But the planning commission’s endorsement of the development — which could someday include 3,000 residences and a town center with businesses, offices and government buildings — came with reservations. The commission has concerns about water use and traffic.

The project isn’t perfect, commissioners said, but the county has more control over a single large development than it would if multiple subdivisions went up in the area.

Spring Center would require changes to the county’s comprehensive plan. The planning board recommended the County Commission forward the proposed changes to the state for review. That would be the first step in a lengthy process that could lead to final approval.

Area residents opposed Spring Center. They would rather keep the undeveloped swath behind their homes and question what would happen to wildlife there. They’re also worried about the traffic it would add to their residential streets.

Anthony Basile said he and his neighbors attended an information workshop several months ago but found the session unsatisfying. He informally surveyed 71 people about Spring Center, many of whom opposed the development.

Some said they moved to Spring Hill on the Florida Nature Coast to get away from more congested parts of the state. Based on the density of the project alone, Basile said, "to us it seems ridiculous.’’

Brooksville resident Shirley Miketinac said the project will require 1.26 million gallons of water per day according to its application and said the county’s utilities director recently warned officials that Hernando is approaching its approved water withdrawal limits. She said she feared the county would have to ration water.

"Let’s go back to the drawing board,’’ Miketinac said.

Joanne Murray opposed the plan because of what she called unintended consequences.

Spring Center would dump traffic onto small residential roads that were not designed for such capacity, she said. And maps showing that the project wouldn’t encroach on nearby wetlands didn’t tell the whole story, Murray said.

"We will change the nature of our Nature Coast,’’ she said.

Richard Pacheco said his home is in a beautiful, quiet community, and he enjoys the wildlife such as the turkeys that he sees regularly.

"I don’t think it’s right, and it’s not going to help anyone,’’ he said.

Don Lacey of Coastal Engineering spoke on behalf of project applicant TTG Properties, saying the project is an ideal way to create a planned development district and a city center for Spring Hill.

The developer has been working with multiple county departments, as well as the school district. The northeast corner of the site is adjacent at Explorer K-8 School.

Spring Center likely would be ringed with single-family homes and a buffer, he said. More dense development would go inside that with the town center in the middle.

Traffic studies indicate that the town center will draw traffic into the development, Lacey said, and move it back out onto major roadways. Developers would limit access to four points.

With or without Spring Center, he said, the areas where residents now see woods will be developed. Keeping it untouched is not realistic, he said.

Planning commission member Alia Qureshi, the sole no vote on the project, said she could not support it because it brings commercial development into the heart of a residential area. The land is zoned for agricultural uses, but is designated in the comprehensive plan as residential.

"I honestly think this is a very, very nice design, but it’s the wrong location for it,’’ Qureshi said.

"I really like the concept,’’ said planning commissioner John Scharch. But he added that 3,000 residences "is more than I’d like.’’ He is worried about water capacity, especially since the County Commission recently discussed providing Hernando water to a Pasco County project.

Because the plan envisions moving traffic in and out on small community roads, Scharch also is worried the county could face another situation like one that occurred on Elgin Boulevard.

Buying up houses to widen that road became politically explosive when many said the county paid too much.

The up-side of a planned project is the way it could tackle all kinds of issues, Lacey argued.

"We’ll be able to work through all of these things in a coordinated way,’’ he said.

Planning commission member Denis Riley agreed, although with reservations.

"Because we get the control,’’ he said, "it’s the lesser of two evils.’’

>>>Previous coverage:> Spring Hill development could bring 3,000 homes, city center>>

Contact Barbara Behrendt at [email protected] or (352) 848-1434.

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