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County restructures for growth

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by JULIE B. MAGLIO

On Jan. 25, 2022, the Board of County Commissioners agreed to add four staffing positions that address the county’s needs as development in the county continues at record pace.

  • The Community Development Director with a salary of $88K- $142K is an administrative position to manage the operations of Building, Planning, Transit, Code Compliance, and Zoning.The Community Development Director will coordinate across these divisions in order to make operations more efficient.
  • The Community Development Specialist with a salary of $58K- $94K will be involved in long range community planning, affordable housing, and other initiatives such as East Side Growth Plan, South Brooksville initiatives, and Tangerine Estates.
  • Planner II with a salary of $48K- $78K, is a technical/professional position for planning and development activities. This position has been added to address increased permitting activity.
  • Zoning and Customer Care Technician $15.84- $25.66 Hourly will assist the Zoning and Code Manager/Administrative Official in the day-to-day operations of the Zoning Department, such as answering incoming phone calls and emails to give more time to the Zoning/Planning tech positions to conduct plan reviews.

The budget increase for the salaries and benefits of the additional positions is $281,781.

The organizational chart of county departments has also changed. Sensitive Lands now falls under Parks and Recreation. A separate department has been created, led by the Community Development Director. Falling under the Community Development Director are the Building, Planning, Hernando/Citrus MPO, and Code Enforcement Departments.

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County administrator Jeff Rogers explained that the county has worked to improve the function of these departments and they have had to deal with an increased amount of activity with the same staffing levels. Building permit applications are still flowing in at a high pace. The county has improved software for single family home submittals, outsourced review for single family homes, reprioritized staff to deal with the backlog of permits and automated permit approval and remote inspections.

The Planning, Zoning and Building Departments are now all located on the same campus so they can work together more efficiently.

Chairman Steve Champion said that with the new permitting laws coming into effect, he applauds the fact that the departments will be under one umbrella.

Rogers spoke about some of the areas the Community Development Specialist will focus on in long range community planning.

“The east side of the county, I-75, you know, is growing a lot in the future. I believe, we haven’t seen the peak of the intensity of the growth out there. At the last meeting you approved two huge logistics centers potentially rezonings out there. That hasn’t happened in many, many years.”

Two master plan revisions for distribution centers on the eastern side of the county were approved on Jan. 11 by the board of county commissioners. The two distribution centers are to be located on the east side of Kettering Rd near I-75, south of the Walmart Distribution Center and are on adjacent properties owned by separate entities. The properties are within the I-75 – State Road 50 planned development district. One distribution center is planned to be 750,000 square feet while the other is proposed to be 600,000 square feet.

Rogers further added, “You approved a couple of subdivisions already out there- six seven hundred homes out there being developed. And the future potential is out there. What you really need to do is plan the east side of the community. What it’s going to look like by 10 years from now. It’s gonna be another small exit like you see on 54-56 almost like another Wesley Chapel… In the future you’re going to have as much population out there as you do in the Spring Hill side. It’s gonna grow that much.”

Rogers said that another area that could see big growth is US 98 and the Suncoast.

He said that the county should consider what improvements are needed in these areas so that they are ready for development.

He stated that the South Brooksville Initiative is going forward and commended the community’s efforts. The county put a Planned Development District in place and developed strategies and objectives for improvements.

Rogers remarked that Tangerine Estates is another great project.

According to the latest Ongoing Board Directives document, Deputy County Administrator Tobey Philips is working to develop a plan with the Housing Authority, Utilities, Drainage and Transportation to improve the infrastructure of the Tangerine Estates neighborhood.

The plan is to put in affordable housing for the growing workforce. He said they should maintain the existing housing and they could add more with federal dollars.
Rogers eyes “Entitlement Community” status when the county reaches a population of over 200,000. He stated that at that point after meeting other requirements, the county can become an entitlement community and receive direct allocation of federal dollars for housing programs and mental health programs.

The Board voted 5-0 to approve the four additional positions and reorganization of the county government structure.

BOCC ONGOING DIRECTIVES & TINY HOMES

Directly following the vote, Rogers provided an update on ongoing board directives. He said that the Mandatory Connection Ordinance for Sanitary Sewer will soon be ready to go before the Board of County Commissioners. This is related to the septic to sewer conversions within certain areas of the Weeki Wachee springshed.

Ron Pianta, Planning and Zoning Director, is currently conducting a review of tiny homes.

“I’ve been watching a lot of tiny home shows,” said Chairman Steve Champion. “They can do some good stuff with these tiny homes.”

Vice Chairman Allocco recommended they reach out to veteran organizations that provide tiny homes to veterans in need.

“We might be able to get a lot of eggs in the same basket- maybe we can use grants that are designed for veterans and address tiny homes and make it work together… When it comes to our responsibilities when we get to that next size community I think we should incorporate some of these ideas together and see if we can manage them that way.”

“Some of that funding is available now,” said Rogers, “It’s a matter of someone in administration prioritizing it to go and do it. We do have a brand new grant writer that started a couple of weeks ago.”

Another aspect of the tiny homes, said Champion, is the value for rural property owners who may want just a second home or vacation home on a large piece of property. Under the current rules you can’t build a cabin under 600 square feet.

Allocco remarked that while tiny homes aren’t good for families, they are beneficial for certain individuals who might not be able to afford a regular home or someone who just doesn’t want the upkeep of a regular-sized home.

Julie B. Maglio
Julie B. Maglio
Julie B. Maglio has experience in art, graphic arts, web design and development. She also has a strong scientific background, co-authoring a scientific paper on modeling the migration and population dynamics of the monarch butterfly, while attending the Mathematical and Theoretical Biology Institute at Cornell University. She holds a B.A. from New College of Florida, majoring in Biology.
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