Field of hopes

What is now just a big, open field on U.S. 41 in Holder could one day be an industrial park. Citrus County commissioners are expected to give a final vote Tuesday on the plan.

For the second time in two years, a planning advisory board is backing development of a 500-plus acre stretch of cattle grazing land in Holder for an industrial park.

Whether the project finds favor with county commissioners this time will be seen in the coming months.

The Planning and Development Commission, or PDC, gave unanimous approval Thursday for the 557-acre Holder Industrial Park on property bordering U.S. 41 and County Road 491.

The PDC approved a similar plan in February 2017. County commissioners initially supported the plan as well, but ended up defeating it on a 3-2 vote.

This time, backers of the industrial park say the plan is more specific about what is and isn’t allowed. And it provides a thick buffer of hedges and trees to separate it from residential property to the north.

A Duke Energy study of available industrial property in its service area identified the property as Citrus County’s best chance for large-scale industrial development.

Citrus Springs developer Deltona Corp. owns the property. The Economic Development Authority for Citrus County, or EDACC, is facilitating the zoning process and has spent about $100,000 in private funds on the project thus far.

“It shows there’s a lot of private-sector knowledge behind this project,” EDACC Executive Director Don Taylor said.

Attorney Clark Stillwell, representing EDACC, said development is expected to occur over 20 years.

Consultant Victor Leotta of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, who conducted the site selection study for Duke, said the Holder site is perfect for industrial development, even with U.S. 41 and C.R. 491 both being two-lane roads. He called the road network “sufficient” to meet the the industrial property’s needs.

The significance, he said, is the property’s size. It would allow the county to offer significant acreage to a company with a large-scale operation.

“This site is your best shot for a large anchor,” Leotta said.

Stillwell agreed.

“The goal is to create a regional industrial park in Citrus County,” Stillwell said. “It’s not to compete with other industrial parks.”

Planning board members said they see upside in a community that wants to expand its workforce and tax base.

Board chairman Joel Brender said the plan makes better sense than others he’s heard over the years, mentioning Port Citrus specifically.

“I think we’re getting back down to Earth in growing this county the way we want to grow,” Bender said.

Board member Bill Grant said a thriving industrial park provides opportunities that do not exist.

“I have children and I want them desperately to come back here and live,” he said.

Board member James Brooks agreed.

“We need to do what we can to help our economy,” he said. “I think smart growth is the answer.”

Contact Chronicle reporter Mike Wright at 352-563-3228 or mwright@chronicleonline.com.

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