One of my favorite Just Wright Citrus readers is P.J. Auffhammer, because she just tells it straight.
In Friday’s blog I mentioned, almost off-handedly, that the planning commission meeting Thursday included a mega development in Beverly Hills that will have a lagoon park.
P.J.’s comment: “Which of these doesn’t belong in the Nature Coast? A-Aquifer, B-Springs, C-Water restrictions, D-LAGOON DEVELOPMENT. Could we have some sanity, please?”
So…have you heard about Tuscany Ranch? Over 1,600 acres, 7,000 homes, condos, and apartments, plus assorted businesses — and a lagoon.
I watched bits and pieces of Thursday’s planning commission meeting about Tuscany Ranch. After two hours of discussion and questions, developer attorney Clark Stillwell requested and received a continuance to hammer out all the answers.
I have numerous questions which I’m going to keep to a minimum because frankly, the development process is at times, extremely complicated, and if I try to make sense of it, I’ll probably make it worse.
This is one of the more complicated applications. I’ll try to break it down some.
First off, this is the vacant land north of Forest Ridge Boulevard on the east side, directly across from where Hampshire Boulevard intersects with C.R. 491. It is surrounded by residential communities.
This would be another one, albeit bigger than your standard 250-home development. I mean…7,000 is a big number.
The weeds of this development are much like the weeds of any other:
— The developer — surprise! — is asking the county to provide higher-density than is allowed now. Sixty percent of the new development is covered by the Beverly Hills DRI (more about that in a minute), and in some places, the developer wants 20 houses per acre instead of 10, as is on the books now.
In other areas, the developer is asking for four houses/acre when the surrounding communities are half that.
Fairview Estates, a Citrus Hills community of 361 homes and 556 lots, has intervened. Fairview Estates is adjacent to the far eastern side of Tuscany Ranch and isn’t thrilled with a neighboring community having a much higher density than they enjoy.
The county staff generally supports the development, except for its request for higher density — more houses per acre — than the neighbors.
And that means, of course, we’re back to the same old debate: When is it proper for the County Commission to remove a low-density zoning category and replace it with a higher density category, allowing a developer to build more houses?
— Developments of Regional Impact, or DRIs, no longer exist, but the old ones are still on the books. The Beverly Hills DRI was approved in 1981 and then changed several times.
The thing about a DRI is once it’s approved, and the developer pays all his fees, a lot of that planned development is vested. Meaning, if the DRI calls for 3,000 houses and 1,500 are built, the development is vested for another 1,500 homes.
I couldn’t tell from the paperwork how many homes are vested in the Beverly Hills DRI for Tuscany Ranch, but it’s gotta be a few thousand.
The developer wants to update the DRI with a higher density. Again, and we’re going to have plenty of time to get into the details, but the question commissioners will face is: How is it in the county’s best interest to significantly increase density on a road that’s already targeted for traffic failure?
For its part, the developer is donating right of way for a future road widening, and will also build a fire station once a certain number of homes are built.
— Lagoon. Say what? There’s hardly any mention of it in the staff report, but I sure hope someone is taking a closer dive (ha!) into it.
Basically, we’re talking about a 3- or 4-acre lake where there is none now. This company, Metro Development Group, has constructed these lagoon communities and has more on the way.
That’s fascinating, but P.J. raises good points. Before the decision-makers in Citrus County give their OK to a lagoon, let’s hope they first check to make sure this makes sense in Beverly Hills. The same community that couldn’t support a small county pool is now on the cusp of a lagoon development right up the road.
I sure am looking forward to hearing more on this. It’s the new Citrus County, folks. Lagoon and all.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.