Today’s question: What are we going to do about Ozello?
Chew on that and we’ll come back to it.
A commitment prevented me from attending much of the planning commission meeting last week about the glampground zoning plan that had numerous white T-shirt Ozello residents out in force against it.
I read Mike Bates’ story in the Chronicle the next day, as well as the stories prior, and the messages from folks on all sides that were sent my way in recent weeks.
It seems like a nice idea. Glamping — perfect for people like my wife and I, who wouldn’t touch a tent in the woods unless it was a tent in the woods attached to an actual house. I think I just described it.
Sometime in the next few weeks, county commissioners have the final say. Seems like a tossup. Both sides present their case very well.
So I return to our question:
What are we going to do about Ozello?
That’s really the question, isn’t it? Should Ozello, with its winding roads, untouched environment and prone-to-flood coastline be kept as pristine as possible?
That’s the real vote about to take place. Don’t take my word for it.
If you haven’t driven Ozello Trail to the end then, by golly, whatcha waiting for? Not a ride if you’re in a hurry but always worth it.
I’m terrible at description, which is why I encourage personal visits. Other than the additional traffic on the road, I don’t think Ozello’s changed much. What you see today is much like it’s been, other than the 1993 “no-name” storm wiping out Pirates Cove.
I took a drive out there Saturday, a spectacularly beautiful day with a cool breeze. I wanted to see Fish Creek Point, where the proposed glampground is planned. Get a feel for it.
Of course, it being Ozello Trail, I missed the turn and ended up driving out past Peck’s to the county boat ramp.
I had a choice of photo ideas: a scenic view from the boat ramp, or a close-up of a roadside sign. Guess which one I picked.
A house along W. Sanddollar Lane had one of those “no rezoning” signs in its front yard, perfect for photo-taking. The owners were outside working on the fence as I walked up and introduced myself.
Well, we had such a pleasant chat. They’re 20-year residents of “the island,” which is what you get once crossing the causeway, where Ozello Trail and Sanddollar Lane intersect.
They’ve seen the traffic significantly increase in the last year and they have a suggestion for the county: a boat ramp fee. The boat traffic at the Ozello ramp has jumped since the county started charging at Fort Island and Homosassa.
But we didn’t talk much about boaters.
The couple had a rather pragmatic approach to growth in Ozello: Build what the current zoning and codes allow, and nothing more.
The residents of Ozello constructed two-story houses or endure flooding, paying thousands of dollars in property taxes, for the express purpose of living in Ozello where there are rules against overdevelopment.
A fear, and certainly a reasonable one, is if this glampground is approved it just opens the door to more rezoning. Once the county lets one in…well, you know where that goes. The Ozello these folks escaped to is no more.
So you see, this isn’t so much a zoning vote as it is a decision about Ozello.
I’ll throw this out there: In a county filled with character, Ozello stands out. I don’t need to explain why. Anyone can see it.
What would be the harm of keeping Ozello’s character intact?
I’m not suggesting the county shut down all rezoning possibilities in Ozello. But there should be an extraordinary reason to do anything other than what the code allows.
We have just one Ozello. It is a gem, a gift bestowed upon the citizens (and wildlife) of Citrus County.
What should we do about Ozello? Protect it best we can.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.