Developer in Brooksville keeps trying for clusters
By DAN DEWITT
Published August 17, 2006
BROOKSVILLE - Developer Gary Schraut, who last month talked about abandoning his plans to build "clustered" developments in rural areas, said Monday that he is pushing ahead with his projects.
He got some help from the county Planning and Zoning Commission, which backed his plan to build a clustered development on 251 acres of farmland in northern Hernando.
This came despite the objections of county planners and a letter from the state Department of Community Affairs, which said the clustered pattern that Schraut proposed would contribute to sprawl.
The Brooksville developer said the opposite is true.
The policy allows only one house on every 10 acres, meaning a few homeowners consume vast tracts of the county's countryside.
He wants to change the comprehensive plan to allow owners of environmentally valuable land to build dense clusters of homes on about half of the land if they agree to preserve the other half.
Schraut and fellow investors own two parcels covering 435 acres on County Road 491 in northern Hernando. With his proposed change to the comprehensive plan, they would divide this property into 184 1-acre lots instead of the 43 lots currently allowed.
The county had previously agreed to forward this idea to the Department of Community Affairs for review, as well as Schraut's plan to apply it to the first of the two parcels covering 184 acres.
But in its letter to the county in June, the department said the change to the comprehensive plan had not shown the need for more development in rural areas. It said the rules defining the program were vague and that the cluster policy "appears to be inconsistent with and inferior to the current standards."
Until these issues are cleared up, the planning department said in a memo written for Monday's meeting, "it is premature to consider any additional parcels" for rural clustering.
That means, because of state policy on submitting changes to the comprehensive plan, the county would not be able to submit the plan for the 251-acre parcel until next year.
Schraut, who said last month that it would cost him too much to prepare additional studies that the department asked for, now said he is trying to answer its objections.
He may be able to do so in the next month, he said, and the delay in submitting the second parcel would cause a problem: He would have approval for one parcel and not the other.
That would force him to develop the two parcels separately. That, in turn, would make it impossible for him to save the views from County Road 491 and the most environmentally significant land on the property, an oak hammock.
This argument convinced Commissioner Robert Widmar, who argued that the planning commission should recommend that the plan for the 251-acre parcel be forwarded for the state's review along with Schraut's other property.
"I don't have a problem with sending it up," Widmar said. "They pass or fail together."
But Commissioner Anthony Palmieri, who, along with Commissioner Anna Liisa Covell voted against the action, said he could not support it until the Department of Community Affairs' questions were answered.
He said the department's letter states that the plan for rural clusters violates 12 of the goals and objectives of the county's comprehensive plan.
"I have no idea what those goals and objectives are," Palmieri said. "But when this has 12 of them, I cannot approve."
Dan DeWitt can be reached at email@example.com or (352) 754-6116.
[Last modified August 17, 2006, 07:02:41]
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