Citrus County boaters may be facing a launch fee by year’s end, but it could be worse:

Tourists will pay more.

Commissioners on Tuesday unanimously voted to schedule a public hearing for 2 p.m. Feb. 9 to set launch fees at county boat ramps, with money raised to maintain and improve ramps, including parking.

Get more from the Citrus County Chronicle

Fees would be $10 per launch. At Commissioner Jeff Kinnard’s suggestion, an annual pass would be $25 for county residents and $50 for anyone living outside the county.

The address on a driver’s license could determine residency, commissioners suggested.

Asked after the vote which category snowbirds with permanent residence outside of Citrus County fall into, Kinnard said he wasn’t sure.

“That’s all stuff that will be hashed out,” he said, adding criteria could include those who own property and pay land taxes.

It was Kinnard who, as the new chairman in 2018, first aired the idea of charging boat-launch fees, using the funds to expand parking and repair boat improvements. Commissioners at first shot the idea down, but it returned and has been discussed several times publicly since then.

The county staff’s recommendation had a single-tier price for an annual pass — $50, regardless of residency. It had two discounts — $25 for military veterans and anyone over 65 — plus county residents would be given a one-day holiday to receive the pass for $25.

The plan given tentative approval Tuesday eliminates the discounts as all county residents will be eligible for the $25 annual pass, Kinnard said.

Commissioner Holly Davis asked if the county knew the residency makeup of boat ramp users so that commissioners would know how much money was potentially at stake by cutting the county resident’s annual pass fee in half. Kinnard said he didn’t have that information.

Commissioner Ruthie Davis Schlabach said she fully supported the fees.

“I think this is necessary,” she said. “I think we’ve been giving Citrus County away for free.”

County Administrator Randy Oliver said if approved, the fees would likely take effect in late November or December.

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.