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Properties will be leveled for wider road

The county will buy most of the targeted homes along Elgin Boulevard.

By ASJYLYN LODER
Published January 31, 2007


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SPRING HILL - Hernando County will force out more than 30 property owners to make way for a widened road, marking the first time the growing county would demolish homes to accommodate increased traffic.

The county plans to buy 34 properties along the north side of Elgin Boulevard, following a consultant's report released Tuesday that found right-of-way on the north side will be cheaper than on the south side, said Charles Mixson, director of the county public works department.

Many of the homeowners indicated a willingness to sell, but a "handful" on both sides told the county they didn't want to move, Mixson said. The county will negotiate with willing property owners, but may be forced to use eminent domain to take property from the remaining holdouts.

"It's not a case of wanting to take the property," said County Commissioner Dave Russell, whose district includes a portion of the planned project. "It's a case of necessity."

The combined fair market value of the property is approximately $4.5-million, Mixson said. The county will use impact fees and development mitigation fees to purchase the property along the .8-mile stretch of Elgin Boulevard from Mariner Boulevard east to Lauren Drive and Sand Ridge Boulevard.

The county has used eminent domain to take property needed for right-of-way for other projects, like Hexam, Ayers and Sunshine Grove roads, Mixson said. Some of those cases landed in court. But this will be the first time homes could be bulldozed to widen a road.

Tampa Bay Engineering conducted the study, which cost the county $70,000 and took several months, Mixson said. The county asked the firm to survey the road, and determine which side would be best. In terms of engineering, both sides could be paved under with equal ease. But the 34 properties on the north side would cost less than the 43 on the south side.

Mixson said he will present the options at the Feb. 27 County Commission meeting.

Russell said he's been assured the offers will be "generous" and "more than fair."

Homeowner Bill Goranson responded, "One man's generous is another man's 'Oh my God.' "

Goranson purchased his Elgin Boulevard home 21/2 years ago, and lives there with his mother. He's lived in the Spring Hill area for nearly 20 years, and his mother's doctors are here. He doesn't want to leave.

"I'm a little dismayed, but there's not really much I can do about it," he said. He's willing to sell, but worried that the county won't give him enough money to allow him to purchase a similarly-sized home in the area. Still, Goranson said he'd rather settle with the county than wind up in court.

Mixson said most homeowners take Goranson's view. But not all.

"We're certainly not going to please everyone."

Asjylyn Loder can be reached at aloder@sptimes.com or 352754-6127.

[Last modified January 30, 2007, 22:53:06]


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