Members of the Brooksville City Council voted unanimously to pause the development of properties within the city limits until the city creates a new development plan. Ordinance 966, creating the moratorium, was passed during the Council’s regular meeting on March 20.
Ordinance 966 places a temporary moratorium on the acceptance and processing of new applications and plans relating to development, not including freestanding buildings or residential infill projects within the Brooksville city limits.
All privately initiated comprehensive plan amendment applications, rezoning applications for single-family, two-family, or multifamily residential developments, and rezoning applications for mixed-use developments that contain residential uses are all subject to the pause.
Exempt are comprehensive plan amendment applications that do not involve an increase in density or use, individual single-family or two-family residential building applications on lots of record, and site plans and building applications for free-standing single commercial, industrial, or governmental buildings.
If the adoption of design standards and changes in the land development code and the Comprehensive Plan for the City is complete before the end of six months, the Council may vote to pass a resolution to lift the moratorium. The moratorium may be lifted by the passage of a resolution.
Conversely, if the City’s adoption of design standards and changes in the land development code and the Comprehensive Plan for the City is not complete before the end of six months, they may resolve to extend it.
Mayor Blake Bell said that the ordinance was put forward in response to massive growth in Florida, Hernando County, and in Brooksville.
“We’ve heard the term smart growth over and over and over again throughout Florida, and in December, we discussed smart small-town growth and what is appropriate for Brooksville,” Bell said. “This will also allow us to have some protection as a council, as a city government.”
In the end, Bell said that the pause had drawn overwhelming support from those Brooksville residents who had contacted him about it.
Council Member Christa Tanner told the panel that her experience was similar.
“I echo the mayor in that I have heard overwhelming support for this,” Tanner said. “I feel this moratorium is such a planning tool that allows us to look at our current development codes – standards, and I’m very proud of this council for recognizing the need in this city, for realizing the opportunity to do something like this.”
Meanwhile, Council Member Thomas Bronson praised the pause as a way to protect Brooksville from out-of-town developers who might not have the City’s best interests at heart. “What’s talked me into this moratorium is the fact that it is not necessarily shutting everything (development related) down. It’s just protecting us more than anything else from big developers coming in attacking our small town and us not having any leverage,” Bronson said.
The pause also drew support from Natalie Kahler, executive director of Brooksville Main Street, a non-profit that promotes the City’s assets through preservation-based economic development. “I’m here as a private citizen, and I am so proud of you (Council members) – you listen, but you also lead,” Kahler said. “I consider this your legacy vote for your term.”
Coastal Engineering Senior Vice President Don Lacey offered his support in retooling the City’s Comprehensive Plan.
“I just want to let you know that what you are undertaking is very meaningful (and) I think it’s been needed here for a while,” he said. “I certainly support your staff as they move through this and any input they need from our end, from our knowledge with respect to planning and ordinances and how they impact things – we will be happy to help any way that we can.”
Ultimately, the Council voted 5-0 to put the moratorium plan in place.