Crystal River City Hall file

Crystal River City Hall is pictured along U.S. 19 in Crystal River.

Crystal River officials assured the neighbors of Hunter Springs Park they’re working on preventing park visitors from being intrusive and obstructive.

City council members, sitting as the Community Redevelopment Agency, unanimously approved a pair of motions on Monday to establish a permit parking system for the residents of Michigan Town, and authorize staff to look for potential future parking areas.

Since undergoing a major renovation in 2016, Hunter Springs Park has grown in popularity, drawing visitors whose vehicles overflow from its parking lots and spill out onto city rights of way and private properties along nearby narrow streets.

“We’re getting very popular,” Councilman Ken Brown said Monday. “The days of pulling into the park and finding a spot on a Saturday are gone.”

Homeowners who live near the park’s entrance at the end of Northeast First Avenue told the council they’ve been harassed or ignored by unruly park visitors who block narrow streets and driveways, making it harder for residents to get around their neighborhood.

“If I pulled out and someone came along and someone hit me, it would be my fault,” said Suzanne Koerner, who lives off Northeast Second Street.

Resident Linda McConnell, Koerner’s neighbor, said she tried to tell one of these motorists on Sunday they couldn’t park in the middle of the street, but was belligerently told to get back inside her house or else she’d be in a fight.

“What do I do to protect myself because things are escalating,” McConnell said.

City Manager Dave Burnell said issuing parking permits will help relocate some of those troublesome parkgoers while the city reconfigures some of the neighborhood’s streets into one-ways and institutes paid parking on city rights of way.

Burnell said cars registered to an address within Michigan Town will get a parking permit, but residents will get one permit for a guest vehicle. This proposal must go through the Crystal River Planning Commission then the council, Burnell added.

In another motion, the council allotted Burnell up to $15,000 to make down payments and help discuss purchase terms on properties the city could turn into parking lots.

“I’m asking to openly go out, look and negotiate something,” Burnell said.

Brown said city staff must be cautious about how much of downtown they want to convert into parking lots.

McConnell’s husband, Randy, said the city and Citrus County Sheriff’s Office should be writing citations for those who park illegally.

“You do have the ability available to you to enforce parking restrictions,” he said. “I suggest you start doing so.”

Councilman Robert Holmes said the city should contract with a towing company to haul away vehicles that are wrongfully parked.

“Let’s get mean and nasty if we have to,” Holmes said.

City Attorney Jennifer Rey informed council members that their city codes define unlawful parking and its associated fine, but it doesn’t prohibit it, making it harder for city park rangers and sheriff’s deputies to uphold.

“Without prohibition, you have an enforcement issue,” Rey said. “You have a fine and definition but nothing in that section that prohibits improper parking unless otherwise marked.”

Rey said she will address the issues with the codes.

Council OKs stormwater canal bypass, but is eyeing other areas for improvement

The council gave $49,300 and the go-ahead for consultants with Kimley-Horn and Associates to survey and design a bypass canal that would reroute debris-infested stormwater away from Hunters Cove and into a nearby drainage pond.

Holmes also suggested city staff look at adding stormwater improvements to areas near the intersection of Crystal Street and Citrus Avenue, where rains easily flood.

Burnell said next year, more projects will focus on areas to the east and north of U.S. 19.

Council sends RV parking issue, proposed tent-sale ordinance to planning board

The council is looking for guidance from its volunteer-chaired planning commission on how it should limit pop-up stores and how it should change the city’s restrictive RV parking law. 

Planning commissioners will look at staff’s suggested changes on which temporary-sales sites, also known as tent sales, can operate in the city by allowing just those with seasonal products, like fireworks and Christmas trees.

The commission will also try to make recommendations on how the city could ease how residents can park their RVs which, at present, must not stick out beyond the front or back plane of their house.

Council also:

  • Approved a resolution that requests an environmental assessment of extending a runaway at the Crystal River Airport to 5,000 feet, and advocates its expansion.
  • Re-approved a $860,819 interlocal agreement with the sheriff’s office to provide law enforcement services until September 2019.

Contact Chronicle reporter Buster Thompson at 352-564-2916 or bthompson@chronicleonline.com.

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(3) comments

WilliamGreen

Isn’t unsustainable tourism great. Careful what you wish for. Get Mean and Nasty—REALLY?

Bill Biedenstein

I seriously doubt, that anyone would park in the middle of the street. Overall exaggerration on the part of locals about a situation. One look around Crystal River area businesses, will easily show this attitude is contagious. The park is for ALL to enjoy. If Michigan people don't like it move, business sure has. Wake up!!!!

Ssabmud

Bill, a lot of "business" has moved because the people's behavior has become as intolerable when in a business as it is when they are parking in the middle of the street. No one has told ALL of these people that they cannot park in the parking lot on 5th Street, they simply refuse to do so and would rather trespass on and threaten the local people to park where ever they feel like. If you don't like the thought of having to obey laws and behave like a rational human being, then you should move somewhere where the people behave more like you do.

The people in Michigan Town have the right to their private property. They really don't need a bunch of angry people crossing their private borders and trying to ruin their stuff. Isn't that the mantra right now?

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