Here’s a topic in the news we haven’t discussed: Meadowcrest gates.
The community of Meadowcrest, you may have read, is considering placing gates on their private roads to keep outsiders from their neighborhoods.
Plus, and this is probably a bigger issue, residents there are tired of people using Meadowcrest Boulevard as a cut-through between County Road 486 and State Road 44.
Let’s talk about it.
First off, you may be surprised to learn Meadowcrest Boulevard and all the other streets in the development are private. Residents and other property owners pay a fee for road upkeep.
Seems a little strange that a community bookended by major highways would be private and not a traditional gated development, such as Terra Vista.
I usually have a pretty good memory with this stuff but I don’t recall any conversation on the county level about accepting those roads. They were always private but used rather generously by the public.
There is no other community in Citrus County like Meadowcrest. The late Stan Olsen’s dream was to build a mixed development of residential, commercial and light industrial. One might think that would be impossible but one never met Olsen, whose visioning went beyond most of us.
Two things about Stan Olsen:
Meadowcrest grew and flourished. The Chronicle moved in. Winn-Dixie and SunTrust Bank at the S.R. 44 corner. Numerous medical offices. Residents could shop, bank and visit the doctor without leaving their neighborhood.
In rapid succession, the county bought the SunTrust building, followed by both Winn-Dixie and SunTrust closing.
Traffic, though, picked up on Meadowcrest Boulevard when the county placed offices of the tax collector, property appraiser and clerk of courts in the West Citrus Center.
I don’t have any data to support that, but some things are just obvious: Meadowcrest Boulevard has traffic signals at both ends. Traffic signals don’t come easy.
I remember asking back then: Doesn’t the county have some responsibility to the community, since it replaced a bank with a busy government center, bringing unwanted traffic to their private roads?
County’s answer: No.
To the great credit of community leaders, though, they didn’t sit still with that answer.
Like most well-run homeowners' associations, Meadowcrest has committees with members who really know what they’re doing.
I found an email string to commissioners last week from Harry Nicolino, president of the Meadowcrest Community Association.
In it, Nicolino said the community conducted a traffic study with the sheriff's office and there were 21,300 vehicles on Meadowcrest Boulevard over an eight-day period. That’s 2,600 cars a day, which certainly sounds like a lot but without comparing data it’s really hard to tell.
The study occurred post-parkway opening, so community leaders are pegging the problem on the parkway. But again, without comparable data, that’s a potential leap.
Just think about it. You’re getting off the parkway and want to go to the center of the county. Am I turning right, then head up C.R. 491? Or am I turning left and cutting through Meadowcrest to 486? And then to where? Zipping through Pine Ridge? I’m a little confused with that logic.
And, according to Mike Bates’ stories in the Chronicle, residents believe Meadowcrest Boulevard’s cut-through traffic will increase once the parkway extension to 486 opens. Now, frankly, I am totally baffled by that thinking. The extension removes all reason for any parkway-related traffic to cut through Meadowcrest.
That said, I see this problem getting worse over time. Forget the parkway, just normal driving would suggest folks will continue using Meadowcrest to jump between 44 and 486. The community's only move is to prevent that.
I admire any community that takes up action for itself. Residents could have blamed the county for increasing the traffic on their main street, and they’d have a good point. Instead, though, they’ve done the studies, talked to the right people and are now considering gates.
It’s not crazy. Both the City of Inverness and the county have had cross-access issues with government parking lots and took action to block or change the traffic flow.
Regarding Meadowcrest, the county has no opinion to speak of. I asked County Administrator Steve Howard about it the other day and he said that’s an issue for Meadowcrest property owners and no one else.
Residents will have a vote later this summer to decide whether to move forward to the next step.
It’ll be interesting to see where this one goes.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.