More than 120 people gathered Monday evening at Crystal River High School to help develop a civic master plan for the City of Crystal River.
Volunteer members of the community joined with city staff and professional planners to begin the process of making a grand plan that reflects the natural beauty of the area and combines it with the opinions of the people who live and work there.
The city hired a consultant — Dover, Kohl and Partners — to work through a week-long process of examining the community’s assets and deficiencies. They combine the study with a vigorous effort of inviting citizens to offer opinions on what they want the city to become.
Out of all of this comes an amazing thing — it’s called a plan.
The plan will attempt to digest the strengths of the city — the environment, booming downtown, gorgeous parks, the small-town charm and the historic structures — while examining the weaknesses — including the uneven economy, U.S. 19 dissecting the city, the rising sea level, parking deficits and lack of economic investment.
It is hoped that the result will be a Civic Master Plan that protects what citizen’s value and improves what needs to be worked on. The goal is to have a community that is better looking, easier to enjoy and economically sound.
Sounds simple, but it’s not.
Too often government goes about its business in a reactive way. Something bad happens, and politicians search for an answer.
At other times, a group of citizens shows up and complain, and government goes searching for an answer.
The result is often too little, too late.
Only about 3% of Citrus County’s population lives in Crystal River. About 5% of the county’s 150,000 people live in Inverness. Inverness has also developed its own community plan.
The other 92% of the people in our community live in the unincorporated sections and are governed by the county commission.
Citrus County last created its plan for development in the 1980s. Let us remember, in 1980 the population was 54,703 and no one knew anything about the Suncoast Parkway.
We now have three times as many people and the same plan.
Some members of our county commission don’t want a plan because they don’t want to be held accountable for not getting anything done. It is much easier to simply deal with problems as they come along and try to make adequate decisions. One member snidely says behind the scenes that all he has to do to be re-elected is to “not raise taxes.”
That is not enough anymore.
Citrus County is growing up rapidly and a major parkway is about to open. If we do not have a plan and the commitment to follow it, bad things will happen and we will all wonder how our beautiful little community became a mess.
Kudos to Crystal River and Inverness for having a plan and working on implementing it.
It’s time Citrus County, representing the other 92% of the citizens, got on the ball and developed an updated plan.
Gerry Mulligan is the publisher of the Chronicle. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.