Attended not one but both public input sessions Monday to start developing the Citrus County strategic plan.
Heard some good ideas, heard some dumb ones.
But I will tell you this: Growth is freaking people out. New homes, crowded roads, loss of habitat and trees, and a wonder whether the people in charge see the same things they do and are going to do something about it.
So a lot of “vision” folks expressed was more fear than anything else, a concern that Citrus County will quickly lose its way to developers who build thousands of homes with no regard to the community or its heritage.
It’s a legitimate issue, one of many that will be hashed out through this strategic plan process. (If you're not sure what this strategic plan thing is, Commission Holly Davis explains it well here.)
I took notes, of course. Here are some highlights:
— Eighty-five people attended the afternoon session at Citrus Springs Community Center, but at least half were among the Florida Turnpike no-build crowd. Apparently the no-builders had promoted this meeting on their Facebook page, so a vision session turned into 90 minutes of the turnpike is awful and some miscellaneous Why I Hate the Government comments.
(Including the person in my photo, who was ranting about a candidate for office. He said his vision is for elected officials to have “integrity.”)
— County Administrator Randy Oliver facilitated both meetings and did a fantastic job. Commissioner Holly Davis also attended and spoke at both. No other commissioners attended.
— Regarding the turnpike, a woman said only “big business and lazy people” would support it.
— A Pine Ridge man said the county has a responsibility to maintain its public roads network, and should have a plan to do that.
— A few people brought up road concurrency so let’s talk about that for a minute.
Many years ago the county’s comprehensive plan included a concurrency requirement. Basically, it means roads had to have the capacity to handle traffic from a new development.
Let’s say, hypothetically, there’s a huge residential development approved for Rock Crusher Road, a two-lane roadway that fronts an elementary school and feeds into Venable Street, another two-lane roadway connecting to U.S. 19 south of Crystal River.
Under concurrency, the developer would need to show the road network can handle an influx of vehicles from his project, or propose ways to mitigate it. Currently, the county has no such rule.
Now, that’s the kindergarten version so don’t jump on me if it’s not entirely on point. It’s a lot deeper than that in a government way, which means I can bore you for hours about it, so let’s just move on, OK?
— Lots of calls for protection of the environment in the wake of this growth.
“We treat our environment as if it has no significance in our life,” one person said.
— One man noted the recent interest for fancy car washes and storage units.
“Is that the new Dollar General for Citrus County?” he said.
— “We are all part of the problem. We’re the one ones who can fix it.”
— “We are here for the Nature Coast, not the Concrete Coast.”
— Increase impact fees. (By the way, on the concurrency issue: Oliver said it would take a year to 18 months to get that passed. Maybe we need a strategic goal to get stuff like this done a lot faster.)
— A woman from Williston screeched…something. I literally walked out of the building while she was talking.
— About 30 attended the evening session at the Lecanto Government Building. Davis urged them to bring forth visionary ideas.
“We can all use more positivity in our life,” she said.
— Heard a few people mention attracting more medical services. You know, like in a medical corridor? Wonder why no one’s thought of that before.
— Several suggestions that the county prioritize workforce housing.
— Slow down growth if possible to give time for the county to have protections in place.
— “We need to get away from the ‘Build it and they will come’ mentality.”
— “Maybe we don’t want them to come.”
Well, there you go. Strategic planning has begun. Tuesday and Wednesday, a group of 40 community leaders will work with the county’s consultant to start coming up with whatever it is we’re coming up with.
It's a meaningful conversation. One I’m glad to see Citrus County is having.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.