Affordable town homes approved near Weeki Wachee

Why not include rental units for the rest of the work force, asks Hernando County commissioner.
Hernando County Government Center
Hernando County Government Center
Published September 12

BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County commissioners on Tuesday approved plans for a complex of 348 townhouses and apartments — some or all designated as affordable housing — on about 50 acres north and east of the intersection of Commercial Way and Cortez Bouleard.

Commissioner John Allocco, in whose district the project is located, was the sole no vote.

He asked whether some of the housing units would be available for working-class residents, such as teachers and public safety employees, or if all were to be designated for affordable housing voucher residents. Hernando County residents in the work force often must leave the county to find affordable rental units, Allocco said.

The applicant for the project is JPM Outlook Apartments Ten, based in Jacksonville. Applicant representative Peter Pensa of the Avid Group of Palm Harbor said such projects usually have a mix of affordable and market-rate units, but he wasn’t sure about that aspect of the project.

The property is zoned for townhouses and apartments, but the master plan was approved by the county in 2011 and expired two years later when construction failed to begin. That developer was not able to get the tax incentives to build low-income housing, which are awarded in a kind of lottery, county officials said.

The new plan is to build up to 90 rental townhouses in the first 14-acre phase. That portion of the project is expected to be an affordable housing project, for which the builder would seek tax credits.

The second phase, on approximately 10 acres, and the third phase, on approximately 21 acres, would be developed later as town homes or multifamily units.

Each section of the community would have parks and recreation amenities and open space, according to the application.

County planners said the applicant would have to mitigate any impacts to the floodplain and might have to negotiate a water and sewer agreement with the county. The project anticipates adding 42 elementary, 21 middle school and 29 high school students to the county’s public schools, so the applicant must complete a capacity improvement agreement with school district officials.

Allocco also questioned the units’ height, at 45 feet. County planner Omar DePablo said the applicant is creating a buffer large enough so it won’t impact neighbors. The plan’s other deviation from county rules are the so-called zero lot lines between the townhouses, a housing type not detailed in the county’s development rules.

Allocco expressed concerns about granting subsidies and deviations to a developer — one favor followed by another.

The county needs rental housing, Commissioner Steve Champion said. He believes in property rights, he said, and that the commission couldn’t discriminate against the project because the developer wanted to provide affordable housing.

“I could not find one person in favor of this project," said nearby resident Eric Orner, who had posted concerns about the proposal on social media and talked to other neighbors. "None of us want it.''