The Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) voted 4-0 Tuesday, August 27, 2019 to purchase two parcels of property in Hernando Beach in order to realign the intersection of Petit Lane/Caliente Street/Shoal Line Blvd. intersections. The price of the two parcels is $400,000, and is to be purchased with funds from the gas tax.
Two additional parcels to the north of the parcels currently under contract are also being considered, however it has not been determined if they will be offered for sale.
BOCC Chairman Jeff Holcomb recused himself from the discussion and vote, due to a conflict of interest, as he is a licensed realtor.
Initially, the board considered purchasing the two parcels for the Hernando Beach Boat Ramp Expansion as well as the Petit Lane realignment using Parks Impact Fees and Gas Taxes, however, revised their vote after some discussion regarding the propriety of using county impact fees.
The properties under contract at this time are Parcel 1; a triangular parcel with two sides bordering Petit Lane and Shoal Line Boulevard, and Parcel 2; a semi-rectangular parcel directly to the north of Parcel 1.
Having a background in traffic engineering, County Engineer Scott Herring told the board, “If we’re going to fix this intersection, now is the time to do it. “ Herring went on to say that since the property acquisition will benefit the Parks system and the Roadways system, he and staff recommend “that the purchase be split 50-50 between the Gas Tax and Parks Impact Fees.”
Herring has not yet determined the best route to relocate Petit Lane, however two current possibilities include extending Flamingo Boulevard out to Shoal Line Boulevard, or simply pave the roadway at the northernmost area of Parcel 1, connecting Calienta Street to Shoal Line.
In favor of the purchase, Commissioner Steve Champion said, “We have to secure that (land) while we can, because … if this sells to somebody else, there’s not going to be a chance to expand.”
Champion also wants to see a Dockmaster controlling traffic flow on weekends and holidays.
Commissioner John Allocco is “100% against using impact fees for Parks and Recreation for this purchase.” Using gas taxes, Allocco is in favor of moving Petit Lane, but is not in favor or using it for parking. He also suggested that since boat traffic is generally problematic on certain holidays, to increase fees for parking on those identified days, and use those funds to pay a Dockmaster.
Champion disagreed, but stated he’s willing to compromise in order to fix Petit Lane. “I disagree with not wanting to use the money for parks, because it’s our only deep-water access.” County Attorney Garth Coller supported the argument, explaining that since boating is primarily recreational, the use of Parks impact fees would be legitimate, and would most likely withstand a legal challenge.
Commissioner Wayne Dukes, actively involved with the Waterways department and serves as liaison to the Port Authority, added, “We have plans to spend millions of dollars off the coast of Hernando Beach for new (artificial) reefs. Big reefs. If we build all these reefs, you can’t put your boat in, what’s the point?” In economic terms, Dukes reported that for every dollar spent on a reef, (the county) gets $5 – $8 back.
Dukes called on Aquatics Manager Keith Kolasa, who reported that an estimated $8.4 million of the RESTORE act is planned for future reef expansion and boat ramp projects in general .
Citizens present for comment were not in favor of the purchase, citing again the budget problems the county is currently experiencing. Most offered alternatives for the routing of traffic and roadside parking.
Hernando Beach resident Diane Greenwell challenged the legitimacy of using impact fees. Reading from correspondence she indicated was from Mary Mazzucco of Royal Coachman Homes, Greenwell stated, “Impact fees can only be used for new roads, new schools. It has to be new. Can’t be used for existing or maintenance. The fees can only be used in the area in which it is collected. For example, impact fees collected in Royal Highlands cannot be used in Hernando Beach, Ridge Manor or Spring Hill.”
Greenwell’s husband is Kentucky Attorney Charles Greenwell, who presented the Florida statutes that would be violated by using impact fees. As a solution, Mr. Greenwell proposed, “Forget about using impact fees … because there are criminal and civil penalties for the misuse of public funds. Get an option on the properties that you want to get, and hold them. Sell off all that surplus property we were being told about … raise the money, and do what you want to do with it.”
Since the parcels will be purchased with gas tax funds, expanded parking is not planned at this time. However the board plans to discuss it in the future.
Attorney Coller summarized, “(The county) can’t use impact fees for remediation of existing problems, it has to be used for growth. How you get there is really a statement of how they set up the changes. Because clearly, growth has something to do with the problems we’ve got out there.”
About the RESTORE Act: https://www.restorethegulf.gov