Hernando Beach Seafood would like to move their stone crab operation from Calienta St. to their property at Nature Coast Marina on Shoal Line Blvd. In order to do that they submitted the rezoning application to allow “seafood products to be taken off of the fishing vessels and to load ice and bait on said vessels.” The rezoning was met with much opposition from the community and the P & Z Board recommended denial. The Board of County Commissioners followed the recommendation of denial at the regular BOCC meeting on Dec. 11.
The request was specifically to rezone from C2 (Commercial) and Planned Development Project / Commercial Marine to Planned Development Project / Commercial Marine. It would include all the permitted uses defined in “Light Marine District” and specific uses defined in “Heavy Marine District.” The property is located at the east and west side of Shoal Line Boulevard approximately 460 feet south of Gulf View Drive. P&Z recommended denial of the request by a 4-1 vote. Staff also recommended denial of the request due to inconsistency with the Comprehensive plan and items listed in the Staff Report.
Alan Sharrod addressed the board, representing the applicant. Sharrod presented a short history of commercial fishing to the board, and the petitioner’s argument for the approval of the rezoning. According to Sharrod, opponents “Believe the applicant is going to build some awful fish house processing plant. Nothing could be further from the truth.” Sherrod displayed the applicant’s intentions to the public, which read, “Commercial fishing, land support but limited to: ice manufactor [sic], ice service to fishing boats, landing, icing, boxing and shipping fresh fin fish, shellfish and crustaceans.” He added that nothing would be added to the zoning change regarding processing.
Sherrod alleged that the county staff perpetuated a false narrative by calling the intended business “processing” and conjuring up images of a “slaughterhouse, blood and guts type of facility.”
BOCC Chairman Steve Champion asked the room by show of hands who was opposed to the petition. After seeing a minority of proponents, Champion asked to hear their side.
Melody Craven read a letter for the wife of Alan Sherrod, further describing opponents forming their decisions on rumors.
Katherine Birren, co-owner of Hernando Beach Seafood, who also resides on Hernando Beach. Reading from a prepared statement, Birren illustrated the nature of fear, which she feels is driving the opposition to the rezoning petition. According to Birren, photos of foreign fish factories were posted on social media put fear into the people of Hernando Beach. “We’re simply a family business that unloads fish and crab claws, ices and boxes them. We unload fish that are cold and hard after being gutted and iced offshore.”
Birren went on to say that the intention is to operate out of an existing building. “Forklifts already cross the road, and trucks make pickups and deliveries here in Hernando Beach, so nothing will change.”
No one opposing the motion spoke during the meeting.
Commissioner Jeff Holcomb said, “We have residential, recreation and commercial all within a very tight area. One of the things this board decides all the time, ‘Where can the commercial go, where can the residents go …’ Unfortunately, the way this community was developed, they put the commercial in a very difficult spot.”
Holcomb added, “I think the future of commercial fishing / seafood in Hernando County has to be somewhere else. It’s a great economic thing for this county, but we’ve got to look at someplace else so this community can stay residential and recreational. But we can create a great hub for economic development of the fishing, crabbing and other things. I’m not sure what that could look like, but we’d have to take advantage of where the water is the deepest.”
Commissioner John Mitten asked of the board if there is an alternative plan if the petition is denied. “How do they go forward, if at all, with moving the ice and the fish down to that new spot? Presumably, right now, (the petitioner) wants to re-navigate to that new spot so that it’s easier to get the fish to the potentially rezoned property. Once it’s packed, it’s taken off in a truck … Why wouldn’t you all be able to take the trucks now and move that down?”
Sherrod returned to the podium and explained, “We will continue (the existing process). It just adds to the congestion. What we’re having to do now is drive boats almost four miles each way. We’re going to continue to fish … if we continue to do what we’re doing, the traffic on Callieta Street is going to multiply.” Sherrod said at some point, a new 40-foot tall building would need to be built on Callienta, which would contrast with the low-profile buildings that are currently there.
“You’re talking about a $30-million industry right there on that road. There isn’t another place. I fly over this area all the time. There isn’t another place along the Hernando coast to utilize this fishery. You’re not going to put it in Weeki Wachee, you can’t do it at Aripeka.”
– Alan Sherrod
Mitten mentioned a 1966 book, The Zoning Game, explaining that zoning “is a protection to single-family residence developments.” He added that the two theories covered in the book are the “Property Value Theory” and the “Planning Theory.” Together, these act as frameworks while considering these types of questions.
“I think we had heard from every witness here today, you’d hear the ‘Property Value’ argument … with the noise and sound. Certainly, the county’s side presents that planning theory model. Both of those models, as well as the authorities that we’ve placed in committees have recommended denial.” Mitten ended by saying, “It’s very hard to sit up here in a quasi-judicial fashion, look at the body of evidence, and see an overwhelming preponderance of evidence toward denial.”
Commissioner Wayne Dukes moved to deny the petition, which was seconded by Commissioner John Allocco. The motion to deny the rezoning petition passed 5-0.