Former County Commissioner Dennis Damato presented his ambitious economic development "sweet spot" concept to a Citrus Business Alliance (CBA) audience Friday morning and the idea was resoundingly endorsed.
CBA Chairman Jim Green said the next step is to alert county commissioners of its support and, hopefully, get the concept on an upcoming commission agenda for further discussion. That’s where the heavy questions will be asked, cost being one of them.
The linchpin to Damato’s plan is a reworking of the county’s comprehensive land use plan and future land use map — both 30-plus years old — which, he said, are outdated and not suited to meet the demands of development sure to come from the Suncoast Parkway expansion into Citrus County.
Damato anticipates it will cost “a couple hundred thousand dollars” at least to work on a code rewrite and possibly hire a consultant to guide the county through his plan.
“Yes, it’s going to be expensive,” he said. “It’s going to take years.”
The "sweet spot," he said, is situated in the middle part of the county and roughly parallel to the new route of the Suncoast Parkway from U.S. 98 to State Road 44.
Ready or not, the road is coming and will be here in about a year-and-a-half, he said, and the county, right now, needs to get ahead of the curve to develop that area properly.
“The parkway’s coming and we’re not ready,” he said.
County Administrator Randy Oliver said the county is being proactive and told the CBA members that it is currently focusing on West Cardinal Street, which is expected to see a wholesale change in the landscape, because it is getting a parkway interchange.
Starting in January, he said, the county will host a series of meetings with property owners on Cardinal Street and others interested and get their input as to how they envision that road will look going forward.
The Chronicle will publish times and dates of those meetings when they are announced.
Oliver said the "sweet spot" idea has merit, but it’s up to county commissioners to sign off on it. The board will undoubtedly discuss it at its goal-setting retreat Tuesday in Homosassa.
“It’s got some elements,” Oliver said. “I’m sure other people have some ideas and some will probably be supportive of (Damato’s idea) and some will differ slightly.”
The CBA, formed in May 2017, serves as a sounding board for community and government leaders and meets monthly.