County not lied to on Sam's Club land
By JEFFREY S. SOLOCHEK, Times Staff Writer
BROOKSVILLE -- County commissioners backpedaled Wednesday from day-old accusations that landowner Charles Taylor lied to them about his plans for property on State Road 50, after a review of Taylor's public statements showed otherwise.
"He didn't directly answer the question, so I guess he didn't," Commissioner Diane Rowden said after watching a tape of the board's June 5 meeting.
During that meeting, Commissioner Chris Kingsley asked Taylor why he wanted to rezone from industrial to commercial the 20-acre site next to the Wal-Mart Supercenter.
"You're not moving forward with any plans to build anything where we'd have to be aware of traffic or water? And you're aware of the frontage road requirement?" Kingsley said.
Taylor responded that he knew of the frontage road rules, and he was interested in selling the property.
"But you're not ..." Kingsley said.
"Personally, no," Taylor interrupted. "I'm not a developer."
The commission approved the rezoning unanimously with no further discussion. The decision came a month after the county planning board recommended approval, without ever asking Taylor or his representative about what might rise on the site.
Wal-Mart revealed on June 19 its plans to build a Sam's Club on the site. Daphne Moore, the company's community affairs manager for the Southeast, said Wal-Mart had signed a contract to purchase the land from Brooksville Property Associates -- not Taylor -- in May.
Moore said Taylor had a deal to sell to Brooksville Property Associates, which she said is an Atlanta-based firm, which in turn sought commercial buyers.
The announcement that Sam's was coming enraged some residents, who contended that Taylor misled the county to gain the commercial zoning on Wal-Mart's behalf.
"A deal may not have been signed, but it was a done deal anyway," Timber Pines resident Dorothy Carter angrily told commissioners Tuesday. "Wal-Mart doesn't make spur of the moment decisions on where to build Sam's Clubs."
She urged the commission to reverse the zoning decision and have a new hearing, with all the facts available. Commissioners instructed their lawyers to investigate the options.
The impetus appeared to fizzle as the June 5 meeting video aired on the county's government access cable television station Wednesday morning.
Kingsley said Wednesday that he did not believe the commission maligned Taylor with its implications a day earlier.
"It was important to question what was told," Kingsley said.
He called the location "fairly appropriate" for a Sam's Club, and said the best thing the county can do now is to ensure that traffic, design and related matters are managed well before the warehouse store is constructed.
"If it goes in, we've just got to make sure it's not a negative impact to the area," Kingsley said.
Marilyn Healy, a lawyer who represents Wal-Mart, said the company will work with the county to meet all local requirements, as it did with the store now under construction on U.S. 19 at Spring Hill Drive.
Taylor could not be reached for comment.
-- Jeffrey S. Solochek covers Hernando County government and can be reached at 754-6115. Send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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