BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County’s top administrators anticipate a busy new year, completing all the chores necessary to keep up with a residential and commercial business boom.
“Growth,” said county administrator Len Sossamon, “it’s going to be all over the county.”
Between 7,500 and 10,000 homes are approved, but not yet built, he said. Once-stagnant communities are seeing construction again, with about 110 new homes in Sherman Hills in eastern Hernando County and 200-300 homes in Avalon in south-central Hernando.
Meanwhile, newly approved subdivisions are moving forward. The largest is Spring Center, going up in the middle of already-developed Spring Hill. It will bring about 3,000 new single-family and multifamily homes over the next two decades.
Travelers on Cortez Boulevard also have seen site preparations — a vast expanse of exposed sand and drainage pipes — as work begins on Cortez Oaks, west of Oak Hill Hospital. The 270-acre project will include nearly 1,000 new homes, also a mix of single-family and multifamily.
Another major project was approved for the east side of the county. Trilby Crossing will bring 430 single-family homes in three phases on 101 acres between Lockhart Road and Interstate 75, where Old Trilby Road intersects with Lockhart. It’s the first new subdivision underway in an area that drew tremendous interest from housing developers during the building boom of a few years ago.
Real estate experts say the Hernando County housing market is tight, a positive development after years of having a glut of houses available for sale. While still a far cry from the housing market explosion in the mid-2000s, the number of county building permits is on the rise, Sossamon said.
In 2011, the county approved 150 new single-family home permits, for a total value of $19.7 million. The numbers jumped to 615 in 2016 and 965 in 2017, with total values of $111.2 million and $192.5 million, respectively.
Fiscal year 2018, which began in October, got off to a good start in its first month with 103 single-family home permits valued at $17.8 million.
“It’s not quite the barn-burning days of 10 years ago or so,” Sossamon said, “but this is sustainable — 100-plus, 150 per month — that’s a pretty good number that can be absorbed.”
Commercial growth also is booming, with Culver’s, Glory Days, Zaxby’s and other new restaurants popping up around the county.
Some of that growth is on State Road 50. Another area poised for commercial development is County Line Road near the Avalon community, said Jeff Rogers, deputy county administrator.
Oak Hill Hospital also is expanding, with a $38.5 million addition of two new floors and 70 new private rooms in its north tower, along with other improvements. The changes will bring the total number of beds to 350 and the square footage to nearly 50,000.
Businesses also are showing interest in property owned by the real estate arm of the Withlacoochee River Electric Cooperative next to the Walmart Distribution Center in eastern Hernando County, Sossamon said. But the reconstruction of the I-75 and SR 50 interchange has slowed the discussion.
That new interchange is among the most visible infrastructure projects underway in the county, but other road and utility improvements are on the drawing board.
Two projects getting a boost from state money include Calienta Street in Hernando Beach and Cyril Drive in eastern Hernando County. Each will reduce stormwater flooding on those important access roads.
Growth also is evident at the Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport.
Barrette Outdoor Living — also known as Alumi-Guard — has a 100,000-square-foot facility under construction near its existing 210,000-square-foot building on Corporate Boulevard. The company plans to increase staffing from 250 to 300 employees.
The county also is in final discussions with Frigitek over a 200,000-square-foot, cold-storage facility. That company plans to employ 60 people on its 20-acre site.
And last month, the Hernando County Commission approved an incentive package to move Jaguar Coffee from its Spring Hill location to a new 10,000-square-foot building at the airport. The company, which services coffee-brewing equipment, will add 12 new employees in the coming years.
Other airport improvements are in the talking stages. A private entity, whose name the county won’t share yet, is working to finance an airplane maintenance and repair facility. And the county continues to work with 18 to 20 other business prospects, according to Sossamon.
Other infrastructure projects will open up the west side of the airport industrial park for development. Grant money is helping the county to extend Technology and Telecom drives, and improve Aerial Way, Corporate Boulevard and Anderson Snow Road.
The eastern portion of the airport business park is nearly full.
The county also asked for financial help from the state Legislature to extend its airport runway from 7,000 to 8,000 feet to serve larger aircraft it hopes to attract.
Some of the county’s work in 2019 also involves park improvements and potential recreational opportunities.
Work at Linda Pedersen Park in Hernando Beach will be funded primarily through Restore Act monies the county will receive as part of the settlement from the 2010 British Petroleum oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Workers will replace the seawall, the boardwalk and a swimming platform.
Talks continue about building splash parks, possibly at Anderson Snow Park and at a location in Brooksville built in partnership with the city.
The county also plans to survey the community about its recreational needs, Rogers said. A workshop with the County Commission is planned, possibly in February, he said.
In addition, county officials continue to talk about recreational uses in the Weekiwachee Preserve with the Southwest Florida Water Management District, which owns the property. The district rejected Hernando County’s idea for a beach park in the Preserve last year, but talks continue over more passive recreation there that the county could manage.
In an email exchange between the county and the district in November, Sossamon proposed leasing Preserve property instead of swapping county land, as was discussed before.
“We propose to develop a resource-based outdoor recreational area not to exceed the district’s proposed limitation of 250 parking spaces,” he wrote. “… we are open to discussing a less-intensive recreation area (no beach or swimming area) in the development of a lease.”
“The district is encouraged by your concept of a lesser intensive use of the property through a land lease,” responded Brian Armstrong, the district’s executive director. “We have similar arrangements with numerous state agencies and local governments that have proven to be very successful.”
No meeting to discuss the idea has been scheduled.
By Barbara Behrendt, Tampa Bay Times.