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County Road 491 plan gains traction

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Officials want to create medical corridor

By Mike Wright

LECANTO — The big picture seems lofty, but the plans make sense.

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That was the general feeling of those who attended a public meeting Thursday night for the County Road 491 project which, as officials explained, is much more than adding two lanes of roadway.

County officials plan several firsts for the road project that would save millions of dollars and create a medical and business community to attract interest from miles away.

Nearby residents, physicians and property owners seemed supportive of the idea, though they await the details.

“Everything I hear sounds good,” said Justin Brashear, manager of Brashear’s Pharmacy north of the Allen Ridge medical center.

Morris Stevenson, who owns a home and electrical shop on C.R. 491, said the county is on the right track.

“I think it’s great planning and great to invite the people to participate,” he said.

The C.R. 491 project involves three components:

* Widening the roadway from two lanes to four lanes between C.R. 486 and State Road 44.

* Instead of buying rights of way, the county wants property owners to donate land in exchange for regional drainage ditches they could share.

* Setting up a medical corridor, complete with property land-use designations and a potential system of interconnecting streets within medical complexes.

Tampa attorney Fred Busack, whose firm Pennington, Moore, Wilkinson, Bell & Dunbar has been paid $271,902 by the county from impact fees for consulting on the C.R. 491 project, outlined a scenario that suggests Lecanto could be a hub of medical activity.

Busack said he and county officials met with presidents or top deans with the universities of Florida, Central Florida and South Florida to gauge interest in Citrus County. He said the draw is the county’s central statewide location, plus an influx of older residents in the county and region. Busack also said the Suncoast Parkway corridor, just to the west of C.R. 491, is a significant draw.

Busack said the county has $9 million in gasoline tax revenue — enough to build the road or buy right of way, but not both. He said property owners would donate their right of way in a land exchange with the county.

Stevenson said he’s willing to listen to the right-of-way plan.

“I don’t mind working out a compromise in some areas,” he said.

Dr. Gustavo Fonseca, who owns an oncology clinic and other property along the highway, said he likes the road plan but is skeptical about Busack’s vision of a medical center.

“That pie in the sky? I don’t think that’s going to happen,” he said.

County Development Services Director Vince Cautero said he expects to have a report to the county commission in the next 60 to 75 days.

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

ON THE NET

* Maps available at www.bocc.citrus.fl.us.