Looking for roadside assistance
I’ve heard from many people over the years who were wronged by the government, but the ones I feel for most are victims of unintended consequences.
That’s when the government does one thing that makes sense but it adversely affects someone who had no role in the government’s original intent. Sort of an innocent bystander.
Such as the Citrus County Speedway and Track LLC.
I’m not a Speedway guy, but I sure appreciate its presence. Every Saturday night that place is packed and it’s been that way for decades.
Camron Ray’s family took over the lease in 2016. They put a lot of money into fixing the place up and, far as I can tell, it’s working pretty well.
Until recently. You see, some of the speedway’s fans park along the shoulders of Airport Road in Inverness. They’ve always parked along Airport Road. Just like anyone attending the county fair on a Saturday, parks along Airport Road because the parking lot is filled.
Now, anyone who’s passed a driver’s test probably knows it’s illegal to park in the right of way on streets such as Airport Road. But when it’s gone on forever — it was a little unnerving in recent weeks to have “no parking” signs spring up to greet racing fans.
Ray reached out to the county for help.
“Race fans have been parking on the sides of the road for as long as I can remember and now all of a sudden it is a problem,” Ray wrote in an email. “To my knowledge we have never had a complaint about someone blocking the road from access. I am so confused and frustrated as to why these signs were put up without even giving us a chance to fix whatever the problem was to lead to the signs being put up.”
The signs came from a conversation that took less than a minute during a 90-minute county commission workshop on airports. Someone mentioned that people parking along the road were making access difficult for trucks heading to Inverness Airport, so commissioners and County Administrator Randy Oliver agreed to plant a bunch of no-parking signs.
And now the county is getting emails from a businessman who says that decision has caused him a huge headache.
I’ve seen this thing before and it’s just unfortunate because these calls aren’t made to bring harm to someone. Yet, there’s always that potential.
See those bowling-pin type dividers on Croft Avenue at S.R. 44? The county placed them there for safety reasons, to keep people from making left turns in and out of a corner gas station. But their initial installation brought the dividers so far off S.R. 44 that they blocked a street, cutting off potential customers for a host of small businesses.
The county, after an outcry, removed cones that were blocking the sidestreet.
Then there was the “pork chop” — some contraption placed in a wide-open median on C.R. 486 that was supposed to bring order, but instead brought chaos. Within a few days, the pork chop was gone and the wide open median was wide open once again.
There are two common threads in all three of these instances;
— The ideas made sense. Taken in a vacuum, blocking parking off the side of a narrow road is not a bad idea. The dividers on Croft (which are ugly as sin) were installed as a safety measure. And the county really saw the pork chop as a solution to a traffic problem.
— The county made the decisions without talking to those who might be affected. In both the pork chop and Croft cases, business owners didn’t know this was taking place until after it already had. In both those cases, lack of normal community outreach proved costly.
As for this situation, it’s clear that posting a bunch of no-parking signs along Airport Road is going to affect only two groups, outside of the airport itself: The county fair, which packs ‘em in for one week every March, and the Citrus County Speedway.
So you can see where Camron Ray might be a little steamed about this turn of events.
The county didn’t mean to cause him despair. It meant to do good. And it would have worked just fine except for one thing:
Unintended consequences. They’ll get you every time.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 35 years.