Being upfront here: Halloween has never been my favorite holiday.
You see, I have no imagination when it comes to creativity. I’m very impressed with friends who can whip up a haunted yard with a few elephant ear plants and a kiddie pool. I’m not that person.
And scary stuff scares me. I’m freaked out enough by real life without people dressed like shrubs jumping onto the sidewalk.
The former Just Wright Citrus World Headquarters on the shores of Big Lake Henderson was perfect for a Halloween jaunt. Long, creepy driveway through woods that hide all sorts of critters, past a swamp where I always envisioned a hand reaching out to grab the ankle of an unsuspecting passerby.
In my head, it was the dream Halloween event. In reality, it was just a long bumpy driveway.
I say all this to introduce today’s Halloween version of the weekly County Commission email string. This week’s batch comes randomly from Chairman Ruthie Davis Schlabach, though the email I'm going to discuss was sent to all five.
Let me set this up some.
Now, well all know folks send emails to commissioners demanding this or that, asking why or why not. This week’s string included emails on familiar subjects — a Citrus Springs road needs paving, opponents to the Pine Ridge Golf Course change, and various opinions on Commissioner Diana Finegan’s illegal immigration resolution.
In recent months, I’ve seen complaints about the building permit process being so time-consuming. Builders are constantly saying Lecanto is holding up their projects.
And, every so often, someone will say the building department is picking on him for requiring permits that are not necessary.
Before we go further, know this: I’m not a builder and the only experience I have with permits is writing about them. So, I’m going along if the building department says something needs a permit.
Even if it’s for Halloween.
Mixed with the usual batch on Monday comes an email from an Inverness man who says the county won’t let him build a perfectly harmless Halloween “haunted trail” because it needs a permit.
“I am contacting you about a misrepresentation of code by the authority having jurisdiction for an event I host in October for Halloween,” his very serious-toned email begins.
His fight is apparently with Paul Gillum, the county’s fire marshall. Reading through his wordy and detailed email, it seems the Inverness man, also first named Paul, says his display in Holder is all outdoors and Gillum believes it’s at least partially indoors and therefore needs a sprinkler system.
“By the permits being delayed I was not able to open for the first weekend costing me well over $20,000 in ticket sales,” Paul wrote.
Now I’m brimming with questions. Ticket sales? $20K lost? Is there a big Halloween hootenanny in Holder we’re not familiar with?
He attached some photos, such as the one with today’s blog.
Lest you think the ghouls at the county are rattling the chains of bureaucracy unnecessarily, a little perspective.
Two years ago Paul had a similar idea for a haunted house and — guess what? — the government didn’t like it then either. The City of Inverness sent its fire chief and code officers to Paul’s haunted display and determined it needed permits.
Paul didn’t think so. According to his arrest report, Paul tried to bribe the fire chief on the spot with $7,000 in cash.
He pleaded no contest to a felony, was adjudicated guilty and given two years’ probation.
Paul apparently is still not convinced of his need for a permit, because Gillum cited him on Oct. 11 for building a structure without a permit. It looks like the county issued him a permit later this month, though he still has a hearing scheduled in November.
I know we like to criticize the building department for its rules and inconsistency. And some might think building inspectors have better things to do than pour over a Halloween haunted trail.
You and I both know if the county had allowed that man to open despite believing he needed certain permits, there’d be heck to pay if someone got hurt out there.
That’s this year’s Halloween story. Have a creepy day, friends.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.