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Politics

Planners back Hickory Hill change

By DAN DEWITT
Published April 19, 2007


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BROOKSVILLE - County planners on Wednesday backed a change in the comprehensive plan to allow the Hickory Hill development.

The recommendation does not bind the County Commission to approve the change when it meets next week, but it does support the position of the developer, Sierra Properties of Tampa.

The recommendation, signed by Planning Director Ron Pianta, also backed the approval of Hickory Hill as a development of regional impact.

Sindra Ridge, a member of the Hernando Alliance for Open Land Conservation, said she expected the recommendation because the commission had already supported the comprehensive plan change when it agreed to send it to the state last year.

The development, which includes 1,750 houses and three golf courses, is planned for a 2,800-acre ranch in Spring Lake designated as rural.

Pianta said the recommendation on the comprehensive plan was based on Sierra's response to previous objections from the state Department of Community Affairs. That agency said in September that Sierra had not included enough information to show that roads and utilities could be provided to the development, or that the environment would be protected.

The original request for a comprehensive plan change also lacked enough information to show that the project would not contribute to urban sprawl, the agency found in September.

The road, utility and environmental questions were partly resolved as Sierra and the county negotiated a development order for the development of regional impact, Pianta said.

The county is scheduled to vote whether to approve that order when it meets April 26.

Sierra has agreed to pay the county to improve nearby roads that will be affected by the development and has agreed to run utility lines for the project.

One definition of sprawl is the approval of additional residential development that the county does not need.

Sierra responded to this objection with a study that showed that the county had slightly more than 1 1/2 times as much land as it needed to accommodate population growth.

That, Pianta wrote, "is within a range that has been generally accepted by the state for planning purposes."

The letter also stated, though, that the commission is not bound to this finding:

"Ultimately, the designation of areas for long-term development is a value judgment that policy makers and community leaders must make."

Dan DeWitt can be reached at dewitt@sptimes.com or 352754-6116.

[Last modified April 19, 2007, 06:49:20]


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