Crowd Protests Plan for Florida Auto Collision Center

Residents were happy after the Hernando County Board of Commissioners unanimously voted not to change the proposed site's zoning.

Residents show their opposition to the plan for an auto collision repair facility. Photo by Vincent F. Safuto.

An effort to rezone a 13.6-acre piece of property on Osowaw Boulevard in Brooksville, FL, to put up an auto collision repair center crashed headlong into community and Hernando County commissioner opposition on Dec. 12.

Residents of the nearby Forest Glenn Co-Op came out in force with signs to let county commissioners know they didn’t want the facility near their community, which is close to other commercial development on Commercial Way, including a Walmart with an auto care center, and the onetime water treatment plant that the county closed down last year, as well as a church and a school.

The repair facility would require a change to the county’s comprehensive plan and a zoning change to C4, and while the owner’s representative insisted it would be a modern auto collision repair facility with a limited impact in terms of smell, noise and traffic, residents and commissioners were not convinced, and the motion was denied on a 5-0 vote.

Forest Glenn residents were very happy with the outcome.

Residents have come out before to protest the plans, and on Dec. 12 they filled the chambers.

“The site has some environmental sensitivity,” said county planner Omar DePablo. “The applicant recognizes that.”

Justyna Gale of Forward Planning & Design, representing owner Michael D. Raysor, said the collision repair industry has been rapidly evolving and are nothing like the auto body shops of the past. The proposed collision center would specialize in services with innovations changing the way repairs are processed. The dust, smell, fumes and sounds of the past would be generally nonexistent.

There would be extensive buffering with fencing, and they only would build on 4.6 acres of the lot. While the project would be 795 feet to the nearest residential property, the nearby Walmart auto facility is 688 feet away.

Residents who attended a public information workshop expressed concerns about noise, traffic environmental effects and the perils of more development in the area.

Before they could speak, though, commissioners had their say and their concerns centered on the need to amend the comprehensive plan, which County Commissioner Brian Hawkins called “our county constitution.”

Commissioner John Allocco thought the developer made a good presentation, but said he didn’t see convincing evidence of why they should change the zoning to C4. It’s a good product, he said, but they should look for a property with that zoning elsewhere.

The county is very business-friendly and there’s a need for this place, but not in this location, said Commissioner Jerry Campbell.

“We do hope you do business in Hernando County. I don’t think this is the right place for it,” he said.

County Commissioner Steve Champion said he didn’t buy the idea that there wouldn’t be cars parked outside, as claimed in the presentation, based on his past experience with auto body shops.

“It sounds like a consensus we have to deny this,” he said.

County Commission Chair Beth Narverud agreed, and then commissioners voted to deny the comp plan change.

All five county commissioners said the owner and his representatives didn’t prove their case, and they could probably build it elsewhere.

Gale of Forward Planning and Design of Tampa, who made the presentation for Raysor, said Raysor might want to comment, but he declined to comment as he left the commission chambers.

“I think commissioners did a great decision according to the Hernando County laws that they are sworn to uphold, which they did today,” said Forest Glenn resident Jodie Pillarella. “They did a very good job.”

John Paul Reeve also said the commissioners made the right decision. “They protected the community and the interests of the Nature Coast,” he said.

Kenneth Curtin, the attorney for the Forest Glenn residents, said the board did the right thing. The board upheld the idea that this is not Broward County, as mentioned by Campbell. “The board upheld that, and their comprehensive plan.”

“There’s a place and time for this collision center,” he said. “It’s just not in the location they want.”

We thank Sun Coast News for reprint permission.

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