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King’s Bay Riverwalk flows forward again

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Negotiations continue with property and business owners affected by plans

By Mike Wright

CRYSTAL RIVER — The city’s plans for a boardwalk along King’s Bay have moved in tiny steps and giant leaps, along with times of stagnation where little seemed to get done.

The project, identified by city residents and business leaders as the top priority to revitalize the downtown area, is planned to connect Cracker’s restaurant with King’s Bay Park. Difficulty with some landowners led the city to revise those plans, at least for now. The project known as Riverwalk is targeted to connect Cracker’s with Charlie’s Fish House restaurant.

On Monday night, the plan moved forward again, with the city council giving City Manager Andy Houston 60 days to continue negotiations with bayside landowners and nail down the cost.

Houston credited the Citrus County Chamber of Commerce’s area council in Crystal River with helping convince five property owners to buy into the Riverwalk concept. He said the five property owners are still concerned about parking, stormwater runoff and the impact the boardwalk would have on future development.

Councilwoman Paula Wheeler said she believes business owners who are concerned about parking and stormwater runoff are asking too much of the city.

“Where’s the level of gratitude?” she said. “This is a pain in the butt to these property owners, but they’ll live with it.”

Citrus County Chronicle Publisher Gerry Mulligan, chairman of the chamber’s area council in Crystal River, said business owners don’t see the Riverwalk as a benefit. What they see is something potentially blocking direct view and access to the bay, he said.

“We had to explain to the businesses why this is important to them,” Mulligan said.

Wheeler said she had hoped more details would be known.

“I’m frustrated to see such vagueness come before us,” she said.

Houston pegged the approximate cost at $1 million.

New Councilman Ken Brown said he wants to balance property owners’ rights with a project beneficial to the community. Riverwalk does that, he said.

“The way I see it is this is a win-win for everybody,” he said. “There’s got to be some end in sight.”

* In other business Monday, the council heard a presentation from Citrus County Commissioner Dennis Damato and the county staff for a proposed development partnership to build parks and community town centers.

A town hall meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 20, at the Plantation On Crystal River, formerly the Plantation Inn.

Mayor Jim Farley and Councilman Robert Holmes suggested the city council schedule a workshop to discuss Damato’s plans.

Wheeler noted Damato developed the proposed plan without city involvement.

“I wish we would have been involved in the creation of this,” she said.

County Administrator Brad Thorpe said he is eager for a public discussion on the plan’s potential.

“This was meant to energize everyone,” he said. “I suggest you take it in that spirit.”