The expansion of the development at Clover Leaf Farms is underway, and while it continues, the project has resulted in fines for the developer and the adoption of new rules to protect Brooksville’s long-established oak trees.
According to Brooksville Mayor Blake Bell, the Chicago-based Equity LifeStyle (ELS) Properties LLC has been developing mobile home communities in Brooksville since the 1970s.
Earlier this year, ELS sought and won the rezoning of a pair of parcels within the development area from commercial to residential in order to complete Phase 7 of the 102-unit development. “A property carries original zoning all its life until (developers) seek to have it rezoned,” he explained. “Those two parcels were zoned commercial until the rezoning was approved.”
The development project also involved the relocation of a two-story historical house that was located on the property by Preservation Resource, a Brooksville-based firm that specializes in historic preservation consulting. As the development went on, ELS was fined more than $400,000 for removing trees from the property, the relocation of the historical house never happened, and the developer had it demolished.
According to Bell, a local business operator was willing to move the house at cost. The developers and the city were talking with Preservation Resource to relocate the historical house, but negotiations fell through. Jo-Anne Peck of Preservation Resource Inc. stated, “We did discuss moving the house from the property at Cloverleaf and had a house mover lined up; however, the project never came together for a variety of reasons, from cost to relocation path issues to the suitability of the receiving site.” She added, “We were able to salvage some items from the house before it was demolished, such as wood flooring, interior trim, and interior doors.”
Meanwhile, the fate of the trees at the Clover Leaf Farm development has prompted the Brooksville City Council to approve an ordinance that protects the city’s existing oak trees and requires the establishment of new trees on new home sites.
During the Sept. 18 meeting of the Brooksville City Council, council members voted to approve an ordinance that requires developers to seek city hall approval before taking down oak trees already growing in Brooksville. The ordinance amends existing development regulations, Bell said.
“We have been working with some very old ordinances that do not protect trees,” he said. “We don’t lose our giant oaks.”
In addition, the measure requires developers to plant two trees in the backyards of new builds. Current regulations call for the planting of just one tree on those lots.
The Brooksville requirement is in response to current development regulations across the state. “I think Florida has some very liberal regulations when it comes to building a new home,” Bell said.
Though there is no specific completion date, the Clover Leaf Farms project is expected to be completed in 2024, according to Brooksville City Manager Charlene F. Kuhn.