A divisive county commission Tuesday voted to direct staff to negotiate a purchase price for the Pirate's Cove property at the end of Ozello Trail for use as a passive park.

Commissioners Ron Kitchen Jr. and Scott Carnahan adamantly opposed the move and were the sole nay votes.

 “I don’t think our staff needs to get involved,” Carnahan said.

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If Ozello wants to negotiate with the real estate agent, fine, he said. But he didn’t want to expend county resources or use taxpayer dollars to buy the property — if it  comes to that.

Kitchen called this another example of “government mission creep” — overextending the county’s reach and taking on too many projects at one time. There are more important priorities, he said, including repaving of roads.

“We don’t need any more parks,” Kitchen said.

Kitchen likened this move to what the board did in 2017 when a group of Homosassa residents asked for assistance in securing funding to buy property along the Homosassa River for a park.

County commissioners offered support, but said they would not put any county taxes into the plan. And they didn’t.

But Commissioner Jeff Kinnard said it won’t hurt to at least find out how much it will cost the county if it wants to buy the property. He disagreed with Kitchen about the necessity of parks, especially as the county grows.

“It is the county’s responsibility to build parks,” he said, “Our county is growing up.”

Kinnard said the purchase would come from state grants or impact fee money — not one dime of taxpayer money would be used, he said.

Kinnard envisions the Pirate's Cove property as a world-class passive park,” with picnic tables and grills. It would be a tourist draw, he said.

Pirate’s Cove is a pristine 3.6-acre site with 750 feet of water frontage and abuts an existing park. The property has sat idle since the restaurant/motel housed on it was destroyed by the no-name storm in 1993 and later demolished in 2010.

Commissioner Holly Davis said it makes sense to at least see how much the property will cost. That, she said, will determine if she will pursue it.

Commissioner Ruthie Schlabach questioned if an expanded park would create traffic issues along Ozello Trail.

Ozello resident Cecelia Treat urged board members to move forward with negotiations.

“This is a chance to take a special piece of property and turn it into a special place,” Treat said.

The Ozello community supports the idea of expanding the park and it fits with the natural attributes of the area, she said. Tourists, she added, come to Citrus County for the water.

“This opportunity won’t come again,” she said.

County staff will return to a future commission meeting with more details on the negotiated purchase price.


Contact Chronicle reporter Michael D. Bates at 352-563-3205 or mbates@chronicleonline.com. To see more of his stories, visit  tinyurl.com/y6kb23vv.