County commissioners Tuesday voted unanimously to ask the Sugarmill Woods Oak Village Homeowners Association (HOA) to honor its contractual obligation to maintain the median in front of their development or face legal action.

Commissioner Ron Kitchen Jr., who represents that district, made a motion to send a “demand letter” to HOA officers reminding them of their responsibility. If they refuse, the county attorney will decide which legal method to pursue.

One option would be to sue the HOA. A second is to assess a Municipal Services Benefit Unit (MSBU) on the 3,200 Oak Village property owners who would pay to the county their share of median maintenance.

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The matter stems from the Oak Village HOA failing to live up to its contractual agreement to maintain the landscape along an approximately mile-long segment of the U.S. 98 median.

In 2019, the HOA asked the county if it could help them apply for a $350,000 FDOT landscaping grant wherein the state would pay 100% of the cost.

The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), which paid $37,000 for the new landscaping, recently complained to the county that the HOA was not abiding by its agreement to protect and maintain the state’s investment.

The flowers and shrubs along that strip had died last year.

“The HOA needs to live by their signed agreement and take care of it,”  Kitchen said. “It would be a slap in the face to Citrus County and we’d lose some credibility with FDOT.”

A previous HOA board signed the agreement. But the new board doesn't want to spend the estimated $37,000 annually to maintain it.

David Quinn, current HOA president, questioned why Oak Village should pay because the plants in the median look terrible and most of the newly planted growth is dead.

HOA Secretary Richard Anderson said Oak Village residents don’t want to pay for something that “is looking worse” than it was.

Commission Chairman Scott Carnahan said letting Oak Village out of its agreement would set a bad precedent.

“We can’t put the county on the hook by getting these grants and not following through,” he said.

Also Tuesday:

- County commissioners voted 5-0 to retain the services of Largo bankruptcy attorney Jake Blanchard to assist in the bankruptcy proceedings involving Nature Coast EMS and D.A.B. Constructors.

Blanchard charges $300 per hour but overall expenses are not to exceed $8,000.

- The board voted unanimously to pass an ordinance allowing the county to conduct criminal background checks on potential employees. Checking an applicant’s criminal history is critical to security and public safety, the ordinance states.

- For the first time in recent memory, nobody in commission chambers participated in the public comment section at the beginning of the meeting. And only a few opted to talk at the end.That was one reason why the board adjourned after only two hours.

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