Three items on our plate today. All digestible:
— Homosassa friends no doubt recognize the photo. That’s the southwest corner of Halls River Road/U.S. 19, the future site of a 7-Eleven gas station.
“This would be a huge threat to the river if this gas station is built and the tanks flood and release contaminants into the river,” one person says in an email to Citrus County commissioners. “I can’t actually think of a worse spot for a gas station other than inside the state park.”
Homosassaians (did I just invent a word?) who have endured a hundred years of U.S. 19 widening know exactly what the problem is: flooding.
“This area has been underwater several times since I’ve lived here and we all know everyone parks in the Publix lot next door because it’s the highest ground,” the person writes.
Both the county and Swiftmud have OK’d the gas station. For the county, it was likely no more than site and building review permitting, so let’s not jump down their throats, OK?
The hope now is the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will deny the state permit.
As any environmental advocate knows, stopping a commercial project is difficult. Stopping the project after it has local permits is really, really tough but not impossible.
The bigger picture is Homosassa residents protecting their community. That community thrives on the river and springs — not to make a buck but to nurture it.
So you can see why they’re a little insulted that some national brand can just dump its business wherever it wants, the springshed be darned.
Look. We’re all somewhat nervous these days about residential and commercial growth. There are a lot of worst-case scenarios being tossed about. But c’mon. A multi-pump gas station on the springs side of U.S. 19 in Homosassa in an area known by the locals for flooding? Explain that logic.
DEP, are you listening?
— Well, we certainly heard from the Inverness Villages Unit 4 folks after Monday’s blog about Anton Van Usen, the developer who isn’t really a developer.
Van Usen claims he’s not to blame for the road and drain mess in the Inverness community off Independence Highway. Homeowners say they were tricked into buying expensive lots by Van Usen who low-balled the repair estimate.
Just to be clear, no one is in agreement here. Residents, Van Usen, the county…it’s a real mess. Lots of finger-pointing and woe-is-me.
I’m going to get into this in my Sunday Chronicle column, but that approach is guaranteed to lose. Someone is coming out of it very unhappy.
So I’m putting it out there as a challenge to 2024 County Commission candidates: Figure this one out and you’re golden.
— OK, I’m not complaining about this but it’s just sort of, I don’t know, odd.
We wrote last week about tourism director John Pricher being placed on administrative leave for ignoring board direction and going ahead with a manatee promotion with the Cincinnati Zoo. County Administrator Steve Howard is recommending termination and the county is going through that process.
Here’s where it gets a little weird: Pricher is on leave with pay since Thursday. The disciplinary hearing scheduled for Monday was postponed at Pricher’s request and not yet rescheduled.
Once it takes place, the hearing officer (a department director) has up to five days to give his decision in writing. If it doesn’t go his way, Pricher, who is making $87,665 a year, can appeal that decision to another hearing officer who is a separate.
You see where I’m headed here.
The tourism boss job is kind of an odd duck job in that it reports directly to the county administrator but is considered a “division” director — one step down from “department” director who works at the pleasure of the administrator and can be shown the door for any reason without this open-ended process.
I’m not accusing anyone of anything, but if the administrator wants someone gone it shouldn’t take weeks to do that while the employee sits home being paid. All on taxpayer time.
You know me — I’m a policy wonk. Smart policy means smart, efficient government. Knowing the way Howard thinks, I bet it took him all of two minutes to realize that all who report directly him should be hired and, if necessary, fired the same way.
That’s it for today. Time for snacks.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.