Tuesday, Sep 02, 2014
Columns

Commission should not approve Hernando Beach development


Published:

I strongly oppose the rezoning and development of the 30-plus acre parcel between Shoal Line Boulevard and Caliente Street in Hernando Beach. My family has owned a home off of Shoal Line Boulevard since 1973. We spend significant time in the area throughout the year and have extended family members who permanently reside in homes off of Shoal Line Boulevard. Additional family members live within 15 minutes of the area. As you can see, we obviously enjoy that part of Hernando County and have a strong stake in seeing its qualities preserved.

In opposing the rezoning and development I foresee both diminished environmental quality and increased traffic as detriments to the area. As you know, Hernando Beach lies within the Nature Coast region of Florida, characterized by quiet, low-impact residential areas, wetlands, rivers and abundant wildlife. These characteristics serve as the economic base for this part of the state and set it apart from places like Orlando and much of the Atlantic Coast.

Large-scale development intended to increase tourism would only hurt tourism, since the area’s main attraction, its natural character, would be damaged or even eliminated. The idea of constructing a “nature museum” and/or “amphitheater featuring nature shows” is absolutely absurd, considering the area’s existing environment is already replete with natural wonders.

The proposed development would increase the amount of traffic on local roads, including narrow Shoal Line Boulevard. Would the Hernando County commission’s solution be to expand Shoal Line Boulevard, thereby increasing the likelihood of even further development in the area? Once an area is zoned for large-scale development there is a compounding effect. Consider U.S. 19 and Cortez Boulevard to demonstrate what happens when roads are enlarged and the areas rezoned. These effects are not congruent with the characteristics of the Nature Coast.

Lastly, I question the ambiguity of the developer’s intentions and the hasty process by which the request for rezoning has evolved. As I understand it, the developer reserves the right to build 26 three- to four-story time-share buildings “in the event the lodge concept becomes unfeasible.” The word “unfeasible” alone is very ambiguous, but it is also very suspect that the developer seeks to retain such a specific right as “26 three- to four-story time-share buildings.”

I would assume it’s so specific because the developer has actually determined that such amount both fits upon and maximizes the potential of the 30-plus acre plot. This combined with the loosely-defined condition of “unfeasibility” gives the impression that construction of time-share units is the real goal of the developer. In evaluating rezoning requests the commission should be making finite determinations, not granting requests which lack certainty.

The procedures by which this proposed development seems to be passing though the Hernando County commission raise concern. According to a Hernando Today article from April 14, the planning commission voted unanimously to recommend that the county commission approve the developer’s rezoning petition. However, it appears that it did so with little, if any, input from area residents, who were unaware of the developer’s petition. Planning Commissioner John Scharch stated that it was up to residents to be aware of such petitions and if they failed to be aware then “shame on them.” Planning Commissioner Denis Riley acknowledged that there was a “failure to communicate.” Is it normal practice within the Hernando County commission for rezoning petitions or similar requests that significantly effect area residents to gain approval without any meaningful debate or input from those residents? I would hope not.

Again, I strongly oppose the rezoning and development in Hernando Beach at this time or in the future. Please deny the developer’s request for rezoning and eliminate the possibility that this type of large-scale development does not arise in the area.

Brent Easton is a resident of Davis, West Virginia, whose family owns a home in Hernando Beach.

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