UPDATE THE PLAN

THE ISSUE: County Commission considers updating comprehensive plan.

OUR OPINION: Updates are overdue.

When the current comprehensive plan was enacted, U.S. troops were liberating Kuwait from Saddam Hussein’s occupation, the worldwide web was just being planned, and it was two years before Bill Clinton was elected president.

While the plan is updated periodically, the basic assumptions underlying the plan have not been systematically updated to reflect changes that have occurred in the county as our population has tripled, new roads have been built and the parkway is scheduled to open.

And what is needed is not just an update and rewrite of the basic plan. We need a new strategic plan that defines what the future of the county should look like and a comprehensive plan for how this will be achieved, because a comprehensive plan is much more than zoning and land use.

Citrus County has undergone significant changes since the comprehensive plan was adopted 30 years ago, and even with updates and amendments, it seems outdated. It is time for more than an update and we hope the county commission will approve more than just updating.

The current comprehensive plan came about as a result of rapid growth that began in the county in the 1960s. For many years prior to that, the number of people calling Citrus County home had been stable, with very little growth during the first half of the last century. For example, in 1900, the county population as 5,391, and by 1950 had only grown to 6,111.

However, the county was beginning to grow during the 1950s, with the population jumping to 9,268 by 1960. Then, following the development of the Beverly Hills subdivision in 1962, the county began to see an influx of retirees and the population doubled by 1970.

Growth continued for the next several years with completion of the nuclear plant in 1976, and development of Citrus Hills, Pine Ridge, Sugarmill Woods and other subdivisions around Crystal River and Inverness in the 1970s. By 1980, there were 54,700 residents in the county and growth was explosive. By 1990, the county had 93,500 residents, and with some exceptions, much of the growth was more a happening than a result of planning.

Developing and authorizing a comprehensive plan was the right answer at the time, but even with updates, that plan is getting long of tooth. Today there are more than 150,000 residents, and we are looking at the parkway coming into the county very soon. Given the changes that have occurred, and are expected to occur, it is time to have a strategic plan for future development and a new comprehensive plan for how we will do things to carry out that vision.

This will come at a cost, but the cost of not developing the strategy and plan is even greater. If we want the county to remain a desirable place to live and work as it grows, we need to seriously examine what we want our county to be and how we plan to achieve that goal.