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Farm approved, rezoning continued on Milk-A-Way Farms property

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The long-running story of the Milk-A-Way Farms property made its way back to the Brooksville City Council on February 6, 2023. The Council, with its three freshman members, heard the first public reading of Ordinance 958, which is a small-scale amendment to the City’s comprehensive plan, allowing for a maximum of 15 acres of a designated 39-acre section to be zoned AG (Agricultural).

Community Development Director David Hainley described the unique feature within the 440-acre Planned Development Project slated to be a community farm amenity. It will allow for livestock and poultry, a farmer’s market, and sales and educational purposes. The remaining area will contain up to 999 single-family homesites and multifamily units and approximately 50,000 square feet of commercial space.

Ordinance 958 was approved with a 4-1 vote. Council Member David Bailey was the dissenting vote.
A separate public hearing followed immediately afterward for the second reading of Ordinance 926 to rezone the entire 440-acre piece of land to PDP/MU (Planned Development Project / Mixed Use).

This item was converted to a directive to city staff to include amendments to the language within the Ordinance. The amendments were additions that were crafted during the hearing after roughly 4 hours of presentation and discussion. The final ordinance language will come before the Council again on March 6, 2023.

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The council approved this action in a 4-1 vote. Bailey again voted ‘no’ even with the pending changes to the rezoning ordinance.
Most of the changes involve lot sizes and buffers between the perimeter and adjacent properties. Referring to the site plan, one of the changes states, “The required lot sizes of 70 feet by 155 feet in the residential buffer areas for Pods 2, 3 and 4.” Pods are individual areas of homesites within the property.

The language that will be added to a section on buffers is, “There will be a 150-foot buffer in all areas where there is no vegetative large-tree buffer existing, and not along roadways.”

Other changes to the ordinance will restrict construction access to US 41 instead of the formerly chosen Jacobson Road and set the minimum lot size to 40 feet where not otherwise restricted.

Originally a working dairy farm, the original owners sold the farm in 2005, when it was annexed into the City of Brooksville. At least one other developer owned the property prior to Croom Road Land Holdings, LLC. Challenges to the development include its potential for flooding, handling of increased vehicular and pedestrian traffic, lot sizes, and an overall aesthetic that is inconsistent with adjacent properties.

Cliff Manuel, President of Coastal Engineering and a representative for Croom Road Land Holdings, addressed the issue of the development being incompatible with the surrounding area. “This doesn’t mean bulldozing down the 36-inch oak and planting a 2-inch oak. The 36-inch oak stays”
He also stated that existing natural vegetation will be preserved. For the neighboring homeowners, this means “what they see in their backyard today will be what they will see after we have updated our development plans.”

Finally, Manuel said of the often-cited flooding concerns, “I keep hearing when I’m at the podium, ‘This property floods.’ This property does flood. There is also a lot of flooding throughout Brooksville.” Part of the development process will preserve wetland areas within the property while mitigating flooding.

The discussion of practical lot sizes in the proposed farm-to-table community consumed most of the hearing. Smaller lot sizes will increase affordability and be attractive to a growing market not seeking acreage. Manuel advised, “Large lots that you can’t sell will kill the project.”

Council Member David Bailey disagreed with the compatibility of the development altogether. “This type of development (resembles) Tampa. Brooksville has pastures and stately residences.” Bailey emphasized his comments were his opinion alone, ending with, “I don’t want to see Brooksville turn into New Tampa.”

Manuel cited several developments in which a comprehensive plan amendment resulted in high-density development, such as Majestic Oaks, Southern Hills, Cascades, and Seagate, which were also annexed into the city. “The city of Brooksville has a precedent of welcoming these types of projects, and so far, all of them have been approved for development.”

Council Member Thomas Bronson suggested a compromise, suggesting that one-quarter-acre lots could be the answer. Bronson went on to say that his comments were also suggestions and added, “I don’t think that it’s right, as a governing force, to tell someone who bought the property outright what they can do with their land.”

The matter will come back to the city council on March 6th for final approval.

Lisa MacNeil
Lisa MacNeil
Lisa MacNeil is a reporter for the Hernando Sun as well as a business technology developer, specializing in website development, content management systems, and data analysis.
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