Rescued Manatees

In this October 2018 file photo, rescuers with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Manatee Research & Rescue saved this young female calf, which was tangled in a crab trap in the Homosassa River. The county commission says it will begin the process of changing the comprehensive plan, which includes manatee protection rules.

Citrus County commissioners are about to lead the public down a path that hasn’t been traveled in 30 years.

Commissioners said this week they want to hire consultants to help them update the comprehensive plan, a massive document that is the blueprint that drives all aspects of growth regulation in Citrus County. 

The document, often referred to as the comp plan, was approved in 1990 and is updated every five years.

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During a workshop Tuesday, commissioners said the county needs a new strategic plan that will help them to develop a new comprehensive plan.

Inverness attorney Clark Stillwell, who often represents the interests of developers, was a member of the countywide citizens committee that helped to write the comp plan.

Even though the committee included a wide range of interests, Stillwell said the plan faced significant opposition.

“It’s not a fun process, I’ll tell you that right now,” he said.

Stillwell said the county doesn’t need an entirely new plan, just an updated one.

He noted the manatee protection plan, for example, which limits the number of boat ramps and boat slips on coastal waters. Citrus was the first in Florida to adopt a manatee protection plan.

He said in 1990 the winter count of manatees was 150; now it’s over 750.

“Someone’s done a real good job here in that regard,” Stillwell said.

But growth has also led to more demand for water access, Commissioner Jeff Kinnard said.

Consultants to develop a strategic plan and comp plan update could cost between $100,000 and $200,000, County Administrator Randy Oliver said.

Oliver said he will bring options at the board’s next meeting to proceed.

Contact Chronicle reporter Mike Wright at 352-563-3228 or mwright@chronicleonline.com. To view more of his stories, go to www.tinyurl.com/y3bakm6w.