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Planning board denies developer's apartment complex at Meadowcrest

Round one goes to Meadowcrest.

The Citrus County Planning & Development Commission (PDC) voted unanimously Thursday to deny a developer’s request to build affordable rental apartments in front of the Meadowcrest subdivision in Crystal River.

The board determined that such a three-story complex would not be compatible with surrounding land uses and be too big an impact on folks who live in that quiet deed-restricted community. They agreed it was also inconsistent with the county comprehensive plan.

“Yes, we need affordable housing but not on the backs of these people,” PDC member Carole Scragg said.

“These people made a big investment and it should be preserved,” PDC member James Roys said.

County commissioners have the final say on the matter and they can either support or reject the PDC recommendation. That meeting is set for 5:01 p.m. July 26.

Developer Oscar Sol, managing partner with the Fort Lauderdale-based Green Mills Group, told the Chronicle after the vote he was unsure if his project is dead in the water.

“I’m going to think about it,” he said.

Sol was trying to convince the PDC his proposed complex would fill a vital need in Citrus County for affordable housing. But to build at Meadowcrest, he needs a modification to Meadowcrest’s Development of Regional Impact (DRI) master plan allow the facility on 14 acres now zoned commercial-business and office park.

Sol said his two other affordable housing complexes in Citrus County – Colonnade Park Apartments in Inverness and Forest Ridge Senior Residences in Hernando – have received accolades from everyone who’s visited them.

Sol was even willing to reduce the total number of rental units from his original 230 to 179 – and perhaps even more. He expressed a willingness to work with county staff to address any other concerns.

“We do not want to harm these people (or) their neighborhood,” Sol said.

But it was that lack of specificity – including the waffling over the number of units – that was a problem for PDC Chairman Robert Bass.

“I don’t feel the applicant presented sufficient data,” he said.

The number of Meadowcrest residents who showed up at the meeting inside the Lecanto Government Center was so large that another room was opened for the overflow crowd.

Many carried signs saying “No high density” and shirts proclaiming “Save Our Village.”

About 20 residents spoke and echoed previous concerns: increased vehicles on private roads, decreased property value, fear of trespassers using the community’s amenities and loss of tranquility. Their biggest concern was that the complex was too high a density for the area’s deed restricted subdivision.

Nobody spoke in support.

Attorney Ralf Brooks, representing Meadowcrest, told planning members that property was always meant to be commercial/office professional – not more residential.

The thinking was that residents could access retail stores to shop or visit doctors in the area.

Resident Les Cook said the look of Meadowcrest would be compromised.

“View matters, aesthetics matter,” the former county property appraiser said.

Cook added: “This is not a case of ‘Not in My Backyard.’ It’s in our front yard.”

Resident Kevin Kelly said he bought there in 2010 after being satisfied with the current zoning in place.

“Why have a master plan and designated zoning if it can’t stand the test of time?” he asked planning members.

Resident Laquietta Davis said affordable housing is needed but this is not the spot for it. She said she is a retiree on a fixed income and her home is her most valuable asset.

“If this is approved, my home value will be adversely affected,” she said.

Davis told the board she fears apartment dwellers will “spill over” to Meadowcrest’s tennis courts and other amenities.

Meadowcrest, she said, is quiet, with relatively low traffic and little crime.

“Those are the facts we deserve to defend,” she said.


Local
Staycation Citrus County
County's rich history makes for great day trips

Editor’s Note: This story is part of an occasional series of “staycations” that allow Citrus County residents to spend vacation time locally this summer without the expense of traveling very far.

Martin Luther King Jr. once said: “We are not makers of history. We are made by history.”

History defines not only people but cities, counties and states.

Citrus County is fortunate to have many historical places where we can reconnect with the past and perhaps learn a thing or two going forward.

The best part: you can save gas and stay close to home.

Here are some of the historical places in Citrus County that would make great day trips:

The Old Courthouse Heritage Museum

The museum is housed inside the Historic Citrus County Courthouse on the square in downtown Inverness.

The courthouse was built in 1912 but by the 1990s, when the old courthouse was no longer being used for county offices, it seemed destined for demolition. The community banded together to preserve this symbol of the county’s history.

In 1992 it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Next began the eight-year restoration process, headed by the Citrus County Historical Society.

In 2000, the building was reborn as the Old Courthouse Heritage Museum.

Today, the building is a symbol of the community’s past.

For more information, visit www.cccourthouse.org

Crystal River Archeological Site

Crystal River State Archaeological Site is a 61-acre Florida State Park located on the Crystal River and within the Crystal River Preserve State Park.

It’s located two miles northwest of the city of Crystal River, on Museum Point off U.S. 19/98. Under the title of Crystal River Indian Mounds, it is also a U.S. National Historic Landmark

This pre-Columbian site has burial mounds, temple/platform mounds, a plaza area and a substantial midden.

The six-mound complex is one of the longest continuously occupied sites in Florida. For 1,600 years, the area served as an imposing ceremonial center for Native Americans.

People traveled to the complex from great distances to conduct trade and bury their dead. It is estimated that as many as 7,500 Native Americans may have visited the complex every year.

Primarily an archaeological site, the park is located on the edge of an expansive coastal marsh. Anglers may catch saltwater and freshwater fish.

As part of the Great Florida Birding Trail, the park offers bird-watchers the chance to observe a variety of species.

For more information, visit https://www.florida stateparks.org/park/crystal -river-archaeological

Yulee Sugar Mill Ruins Historic State Park

This site was once part of a thriving sugar plantation owned by David Levy Yulee.

Yulee was a member of the Territorial Legislative Council, and he served in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate after Florida statehood.

The park contains remnants of the once thriving, 5,100-acre sugar plantation, including a 40-foot limestone masonry chimney, iron gears and a cane press. The steam-driven mill operated from 1851 to 1864 and served as a supplier of sugar products for Southern troops during the Civil War.

Photos by Matthew Beck / Chronicle photo editor 

The Yulee Sugar Mill Ruins, now a state park off U.S. 19 in Homosassa, contains the ruins of a sugar plantation owned by David Levy Yulee, a delegate of the Florida Territorial Legislative Council and later a U.S. Senator from Florida. The sugar mill was the center of a 5,000-acre sugar-cane plantation carved out of the dense forested hammock along Florida’s Homosassa River by over 1,000 slave laborers in 1851.

The park is located in the small town of Homosassa, about 3 miles west of the city of Homosassa Springs. Take U.S. 19 (northbound or southbound) to the town of Homosassa Springs, then turn west onto County Road 490 West (Yulee Drive).

Proceed for 2.5 miles to the park. There are brown and white highway signs that will lead you to the park. The ruins of the mill are situated within 5 feet of the road and can be easily seen.

The site offers a picnic pavilion, tables for picnicking, and grills.

For more information, visit https://www.floridastate parks.org/parks-and-trails/yulee-sugar-mill-ruins -historic-state-park

Historic Duval House

Visitors to the Historic Duval House in downtown Floral City can learn a little about the home’s history without setting foot inside.

The Duval-Metz House in the Floral City Historic District is the oldest surviving residential building in Citrus County.

The Fort Cooper chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (NSDAR) funded and installed a historical marker explaining the history of the house, which is the oldest surviving residential structure in Citrus County.

Official historical markers are reviewed and approved through a Florida Department of State program “designed to raise public awareness of Florida’s rich cultural history,” according to the department’s website, and to “allow us to tell the stories of the places and people who created the Florida that we all enjoy today.”

The Historic Duval House was built in 1860 by John Paul Formy-Duval – whose great-great-grandson, H.D. Bassett, is involved in the restoration of the home by the Duval Preservation Trust, which purchased it in 2012.

That restoration is ongoing.

The marker provides the basic history of the house, and sits near the corner of East Orange Avenue and South Old Floral City Road on the Duval House’s large lot.

For more information, visit: Facebook/DuvalMetzHouse or call 352-726-7740.

Fort Cooper State Park

Fort Cooper State Park is a 710-acre historic site in Inverness.

On June 13, 1972, it was added to the United States National Register of Historic Places. It is also a Florida State Park

mattbeck / Matthew Beck Chronicle photo editor 

Two whitetail deer stand like statues inside Fort Cooper State Park in Inverness. These two, along with several others, foraged through the park, stopping to eat acorns and grasses during the cool, early-morning hours. The park is home to many species of animals including turkey and deer.

With over 700 acres of nature, it offers a spot for relaxing, hiking, studying nature and learning about Florida’s rich history.

Lake Holathlikaha is popular for fishing and boating; although private boats are prohibited, canoes and kayaks are available for rent when water levels and conditions are optimal.

As part of the Great Florida Birding Trail, the park offers nearly 5 miles of self-guided trails with excellent bird and wildlife viewing. The park’s diverse natural areas provide a refuge for many plants and animals, including threatened and endangered species.

Fort Cooper State Park

A paved pathway connects the park to the multi-use paved Withlacoochee State Trail. Park visitors can enjoy the picnic facilities and playground under a hardwood hammock near the lake.

The Seminole Heritage Trail kiosks are a series of four interpretive panels that provide insight into the lives of the Seminole Indians who lived in this area and the reason for Fort Cooper’s construction.

The state park is located two miles south of Inverness, off U.S. 41 on South Old Floral City Road.

For more information, call 352-726-0315.


Local
Water District asks residents for input in making new flood maps

This past spring’s heavy rains left many of Citrus County’s roads underwater and residents watching helplessly as the flooding crept into their homes or made wells and septic tanks unusable.

Many attended county commission and local city council meetings in hopes of getting relief. They received a sympathetic ear but little else other than sandbags.

But this first step is meant to help.

The Southwest Florida Water Management District will host an open house meeting during which the state agency will present a map and supporting material to preliminarily pinpoint flood prone areas. The water agency will ask visitors to the event to provide their own firsthand knowledge about areas and their experiences when it comes to flooding in their communities.

The project is funded by the water district and the county.

“Flood prone area information will be used by local governments and the (water district) for floodplain management once finalized,” the water district wrote to county residents potentially impacted.

The water district is also posting its preliminary floodplain data on its website. The website includes an interactive map of the county and allows users to enter their address and see potential flooding in their communities.

The address of the website is WaterMatters.org/floodplain. From there click North Citrus Withlacoochee River under the Ongoing Floodplain Public Reviews section near the top of the page.

Residents can review the flood map, place their address in the address box, and see the potential flooding on their property. The website also allows for residents to comment and send what knowledge they have about flooding to the water agency.

The flood information the water district generated thus far, along with information it gets from residents, has not been added to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) flood insurance rate maps, but it may be added in the future.

“Whether you attend the meeting in-person or visit the website and provide comments online, this is your opportunity to view the preliminary flood prone area information…,” the water district letter read. “We welcome any photos, documents, or historical information regarding your property to assist with further analysis.

The agency will also make district representatives available to the public at the open house.

“The representatives will provide information on your property for review and comment,” according to the letter, “and answer questions.”

The open house is anytime between 4 – 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, June 29, at the Coastal Region Library, 8619 W. Crystal St., Crystal River.


Local
Kitchen: 'No way, no how' to millage hike

If county commissioners were to fund all the budget requests from elected constitutional officers, they would have to raise the millage rate for 2022-23 from the current 7.7623 to 8.8192.

At least two county commissioners said there is no way they will support a 1.0569 percent increase.

Kitchen Jr.

“No way, no how,” Commission Chairman Ron Kitchen said at this week’s board meeting.

Commissioner Scott Carnahan said given the economy, it wouldn’t be right to put such a millage increase on the backs of people who are struggling to even put gas in their cars.

“I’m not sure this is the time to try and be doing things like this,” Carnahan said.

Carnahan

Citrus County’s elected Constitutional officers’ budgets came in June 1 and, except for a hefty hike from the sheriff, the others submitted modest year-over-year increases due to inflation, employee compensation and equipment purchases.

The biggest source of contention was Sheriff Mike Prendergast’s submitted budget of $39,949 million, about 30 percent more than last year’s $31,467.

“This is a political hot potato,” Kitchen said.

Carnahan said he appreciates the work of law enforcement and Prendergast wanting to build in salary increases. But he said there are county employees – including janitors and road workers – who also “make the world turn” and would appreciate raises too.

Given the current inflationary climate, it’s important to keep the current millage, he said.

“The last thing we want to do is have an economic disaster here in our county,” Carnahan added.

Kinnard

County Commissioner Jeff Kinnard said he is supporting the sheriff’s budget but does have questions that he wants to talk to the sheriff about.

The next step: the elected constitutional officers will make a presentation to county commissioners July 26 when the tentative budget and millage is set.

County Administrator Randy Oliver said he will send letters requesting more information by Monday.


News_notes
Thrumston pre-files for school board race

Former County Commissioner John Thrumston, of Inverness, has pre-filed for School Board, District 3. Douglas A. Dodd, the incumbent, has qualified to run.


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