Crystal River City Hall File

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

After hearing concerns over design uncertainties, a developer decided to redo their pitch to build a mix of condos, shops and offices in Crystal River.

Rob Benjamin, Heritage Development Company’s vice president, told City Council the evening of Monday, Sept. 13, he would amend his application to rezone and reclassify part of the 51-acre lot at 8800 W. Pure Lane, along U.S. 19.

“I don’t mind stepping back,” he told city officials on behalf of the property owner, Crystal River LTD. “If there’s a way to work with the city, we’re willing to do it.”

Get more from the Citrus County Chronicle

Taking council’s advice, Benjamin said he’ll draft an application for a planned unit development, or PUD, which gives a developer flexibility beyond building codes but restricts them to a specific blueprint council still has to approve.

After working with city staff for roughly a year, the developer asked council to designate 32 acres of the parcel’s northwestern corner to high-density residential, allowing for up to to 384 multi-family dwellings within multi-story apartments. 

West Pure Lane Development Conceptual Plan

This is a conceptual plan for a mixed development of apartments, businesses and offices at 8800 W. Pure Lane in Crystal River.

Remaining acreage will remain unchanged as highway commercial, providing for shopfronts and offices.

Brian Herrmann, director of city planning and development, presented the developer’s conceptual plan to council, but acknowledged the rezoning request wouldn’t bind builders to a specific design. 

Herrmann said the layout would be a dense combination of housing and businesses connected by sidewalks, green space, lakeside trails and playgrounds.

“We want to come in and do something different than what we’ve done in past,” Benjamin said. “we felt this was the best option for us to develop this land.”

Councilman Robert Holmes was first to voice questions over the development’s height in relation to the neighboring Crystal River Airport, it’s potential impacts on wetlands, stormwater runoff and traffic on West Pure Lane, which doesn’t have a traffic signal with U.S. 19.

“We’re going to have issues with this if this happens,” he said, echoed by other council members. “You got to do it right.”

Herrmann noted construction permits would have to be later approved by the city, the the Federal Aviation Administration, and other regulatory agencies before ground breaks.

CR Planning Commission rejects rezoning ask for potential mixed-use development

Jackie Brooks, who lives behind the property, said destroying the wetlands for the development’s stretch of impervious surfaces would destroy the wildlife and worsen the flooding she and her neighbors already endure after a day of rainfall.

“If you build something high behind me, there’s nowhere for water to go but to us,” she said. “This is not a good project for anyone.”

Herrmann said other communities have been able to sustain dense developments amid their wetlands. Environmental rules also prohibit a development from contributing to more stormwater runoff.

Holmes said there “ain’t no way in God’s green earth that can happen” with how the land slopes to surrounding lowlands and golf courses.

A tree line, 150 feet of space and an old railroad line will separate the development from the adjacent subdivision to the west.

Council was OK with Heritage Development Company listing the property on its website for $5 million. In 2020, the the Citrus County Property Appraiser valued the lot at $423,690.

Benjamin said it’s his company’s intent to develop the lot before it’s sold.

“It’s my job to get sites we have developed,” he said. “It might be for sale; everything's for sale.”

Council asked Benjamin why he didn’t pursue a PUD application, which, the officials said, would help give a better picture of what’s in the developer’s mind.

Benjamin said he went this route because other communities have denied PUD applications.

"If a PUD can help us and help you," he said, "then we’re open to it."

Council sets final assessment rate for properties affected by septic-to-sewer project

Council voted Monday to approve final assessment rates for the 90 properties impacted by the city’s Indian Waters Phase One Sewer Expansion Project.

Expected to break ground in 12 to 14 months, the project will take 77 septic tanks offline and hookup lots to Crystal River’s sewer system. 

Crystal River approves additional funds for septic-to-sewer project

City officials pursued the project to help reduce nitrogen leaking from septic tanks 

Affected residents were going to pay the balance of what the city couldn’t cover for the $2,152,677 project. 

In the end, council’s vote gave property owners the option to either prepay the $5,976 cost or pay an annual assessment of $832 on their tax bill over the next 10 years, starting in November.

CR Council sets tentative assessment for septic-to-sewer project; search on for more funds

Residents were facing either an annual assessment of $861 or an upfront charge of $10,304.

City staff, however, was able to get an additional $500,000 in state funding to help offset higher-than-budgeted costs, allowing for assessment reductions. Crystal River also contributed $100,000.

City Manager Ken Frink said the city is applying for grants to try and cover the $3,200 fee each affected property owner is estimated to pay to connect their home within 365 days after city sewer is available.

Council approves agreement with city’s current trash hauler for status-quo service

Council voted Monday to keep Waste Management — formerly Advanced Disposal — as Crystal River’s trash hauler until at least Sept. 30, 2028.

While Waste Management’s original quotes were higher compared to its two competing bidders, city staff and their consultants recommended the company because of its unwavering service.

CR Council OKs tentative trash-hauler contract; mulls over ecotourism committee

Following negotiations with city staff, Waste Management agreed to set the residential pickup rate at $23.90 a month — a $7.91 increase from the current rate. Waste Management will also unload commercial dumpsters at $7.75 per cubic yard instead of $8.73.

There were no changes to how trash and recycling will be collected from the curbsides or dumpsters within the city. Waste Management also agreed to take glass recycling.

To haul waste away from Crystal River, Waste Management must pay the city $140,000 a year in equal monthly payments.  

Contact Chronicle reporter Buster Thompson at 352-564-2916,  bthompson@chronicleonline.com or visit tinyurl.com/yxn2ahso to see more of his stories.