2012 in review: Well permit draws deep concerns

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By Mike Wright

CRYSTAL RIVER — It wasn’t the old lumber yard at 142 N.E. 11th St. that has residents and officials concerned, it’s what someone plans to do with the water underneath.

A decision by the Southwest Florida Water Management District to issue a well permit for a company that will sell water to an Ocala bottling plant brought anger and disbelief to the community.

Officials and residents were in disbelief upon learning that, while the permit allows 28 million gallons of water to be pumped a year, it didn’t require a meter so there is no way to monitor the actual withdrawal amounts.

Water district officials said they had no choice but to issue the permit, which cost $50. City officials said they didn’t learn of the permit until after the period to appeal had expired.

City Manager Andy Houston said he didn’t know at the time that his office could be alerted anytime someone requests a water-use permit from the water district.

“Had we been on that register previously, we could have voiced our concerns,” Houston said. “We’re on that list now.”

Heatherwood Investments LLC of Crystal River and Mistletoe LLC of Ocala requested the permit. They intend to transport water from the site to Consolidated Water Group LLC in Ocala.

So far, other than a test well, nothing has occurred on the property.

Jackie Gorman, director of planning and development, said the company must submit a site plan that includes restroom facilities, landscaping, well location, expected daily truck traffic amounts and future uses for the property.

She said the owners must bring the old lumber yard site up to current code. Any variance of the code will require council approval.

“Our land development code is one size fits all and sometimes it doesn’t fit,” Gorman said. “If we are in disagreement, we go to the council with it. I don’t foresee that happening.”

Gorman said she hopes the company’s trucks will access 11th Street off Citrus Avenue rather than drive through the neighborhood.
She also said the company hasn’t given her a timeline for when it wants to start pumping water.

“They submitted their original conceptual site plan a month ago,” Gorman said. “They have not given me any sense of urgency on this.”

Contact Chronicle reporter Mike Wright at 352-563-3228 or mwright@chronicleonline.com.