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The county may be one step closer to a merger with Hernando County for regional road planning after a meeting today of Citrus County Transportation Planning Organization (TPO).
However, representatives of the county’s two cities, Inverness and Crystal River, who each have two seats on the seven-seat TPO, have expressed dismay the merger with Hernando’s Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) will cut them each back to one seat. The merged MPO would assign six board seats to Hernando County representatives, but only five to Citrus: three seats to county representatives and one to each city.
“This is an important issue,” said Vincent Cautero, director of the Department of Planning and Development, speaking Wednesday to the Chronicle editorial board. “We are now an urbanized area and that leads to transportation planning issues.”
Cautero said he hoped the TPO would soon decide to merge with the MPO. Several months ago the TPO asked its consultant director, Bob Clifford, executive director of Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority (TBARTA), to open talks with Hernando MPO and it responded with interest.
The TPO must join an MPO by federal and state laws because the county now has an urbanized area — Homosassa Springs-Citrus Springs-Beverly Hills — based on 2010 U.S. Census results.
Cautero described the urbanized area as U-shaped. It will present new federal regulations to the county for compliance, such as the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System program, in addition to its impact on regional transportation planning.
“The urbanized area will have an impact on some of our comprehensive plan amendments,” Cautero said.
The merger with Hernando MPO is now at the detail stage.
“Two city council members stated that they weren’t in favor of an unbalanced board,” Cautero said. “That’s going to work itself out, and then the staffing. I don’t know what direction it’s going to go, but I would predict that ultimately they will come up with an apportionment plan, a plan that will allow everyone to be happy and satisfy as many people as possible. We would become part of the MPO at the end of the day.”
Contact Chronicle reporter Chris Van Ormer at 352-564-2916 or email@example.com.