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Despite objections, zoning board approves Hernando Beach development

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Published:   |   Updated: April 15, 2014 at 09:50 AM

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BROOKSVILLE - Brothers Gordon and Ron Wolf envision a future tourism destination spot for Hernando Beach, complete with lodging, a nature amphitheater and cultural center.

Wolf and his brother Ron were at Monday's planning and zoning meeting to get rezoning approval for a 31-acre parcel between Calienta Street and Shoal Line Boulevard.

Gordon Wolf, who owns the Blue Pelican Marina at 5000 Calienta Street, said there will be a 1-acre outdoor amphitheater, an indoor cultural center which includes a 200-seat indoor nature theater, 42-unit rental cottages, a gift store and parking lot.

Dozens of angry neighbors who believe the plan will add to the traffic congestion in the area, spoil wildlife habitat and wetlands and generally be an eyesore attended the meeting.

Planning commissioners voted unanimously to recommend approval of the proposed project with the "strong encouragement" that developer and residents get together before May 13 and try to resolve any concerns.

That's when county commissioners, the last word on rezoning petitions, will meet and discuss the P&Z recommendation.

"There seems to be a failure to communicate," Planning Commissioner Denis Riley said.

P&Z Commissioner John Scharch said it was up to neighbors to be informed about what's going on in their community and if they were not up to speed, "shame on them."

Scharch said the developer put the proper signs along the site notifying people of the P&Z meeting and there was no reason to postpone the vote, as had been suggested by Riley.

P&Z Chairman Robert Widmar said he understood residents' concerns but planning staffers have reviewed the request, deemed it an appropriate use for the community and included 28 performance conditions and that is good enough for him.

Beach resident Suzanne Lemmons said the plan is too ambitious for the area and will only lead to more traffic along already-narrow Shoal Line Boulevard.

"If our current infrastructure barely meets demand now, how will this work?" she asked, adding that the plan sounds like a "formula for disaster."

Lemmons suggested the developer seek a better spot, perhaps the soon-to-be commissioned water treatment plant along Osowaw Boulevard.

But the biggest problem most people had was the lack of project specifics and failure to communicate the project with residents.

"There are too many unknowns," said Diane Overbeek, president of the Hernando Beach South Property Owners Association.

Overbeek added that the project does not fit into the community.

Judith Simpson, president of the Hernando Beach Property Owners Association, agreed there needs to be more information for residents before her board gives an informed opinion.

Simpson said she is a proponent of environmental tourism but this proposed rezoning, as presented, is too ambiguous.

Resident Forrest Bennett was so upset when he heard about the proposal he wrote a five-page letter to the county addressing 21 reasons why this rezoning should be denied.

"This is a grossly inappropriate rezoning," Bennett said.

Shoal Line Boulevard is already a dangerous road, he said, and adding more traffic will only worsen the conditions.

Jeremy Couch, an engineer working with the Wolf brothers, said there will be no impact to wetlands and a traffic study will be done.

"We're asking for a low-intensity development," Couch said.

Ron Wolf stressed that the 55-foot amphitheater would show nature films and not be a venue for music.

Also Monday, planning and zoning commissioners voted unanimously to approve a master plan revision allowing a developer to build a shopping center on 20.4 acres on the northwest corner of County Line Road and Mariner Boulevard.

There is no official commitment from any stores or tenants yet. However, Joel Tew, land use property attorney representing the landowner, said the mix of tenants would likely include a bank, convenience store, drug store and other service-related establishments.

There will be two access points off Mariner Boulevard and two off County Line Road and a reverse frontage road running throughout the complex, Tew said.

mbates@hernandotoday.com

(352) 544-5290

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