Happy Wednesday! Everyone OK?
Dispatches from Tuesday’s County Commission meeting, fueled by 10 hours of Skittles:
— Never seen this before: The first two rows of seats reserved for all the people officially involved in the Pine Ridge Golf Course land-use case.
— It’s freezing here. It affects my typing. I swear, we can rename the board meeting room “meat locker.” I’m expecting Rocky to punch a carcass.
— These huge land-use cases that go on for hours have a particular process that’s divided into quarters: The applicant’s presentation; staff report; citizens’ comment; commissioners’ discussion and vote.
In general, the first part takes about two hours. And it’s the part I pay attention to the least. Not that it isn’t important, it’s just that I’ll forget most of it when the night ends.
— Attorney Clark Stillwell says a golf course is no longer economically viable. We’ll learn later whether commissioners consider that significant or not. I’m going to guess not. The reason being this isn’t about whether the golf course should be for golfers or homeowners, but rather whether residents EXPECT a golf course because it’s in the community’s master plan.
— These are like court hearings. Lawyers cross-examine experts. It’s riveting.
— Earlier Tuesday, I sat with Clerk of Courts Angela Vick about her decision to step down after 12 years in office. She’s supporting her deputy clerk, Traci Phillips, who opened a campaign account to run for clerk.
I’ll get into this at another time, but I’m hoping to have some decent clerk of court candidates. Not taking anything from Traci, but we haven’t had a seriously contested election for clerk of court in 36 years.
I’m quite familiar with that timeline. The 1988 election was my first in Citrus County, and the clerk’s race was wide open with Walt Connors’ retirement. Along with the winner, Betty Strifler, the candidate list included a sitting county commissioner, former commissioner, and a higher up with the chamber of commerce.
Yes, I’m that old.
— Also earlier, the COPS grant may be dead in the water. With the exception of Jeff Kinnard, commissioners were wary of dedicating millions of dollars for the local match to hire up to 43 deputies.
This is also a discussion for another day, but my goodness, what a trainwreck. To apply for a big federal grant, get the grant, and then essentially bail because it wasn’t thought out…well, that’s just embarrassing.
Commissioners learned a valuable lesson. They got into this mess because Sheriff Mike Prendergast waited until the last minute — not once, but twice — before bringing the COPS grant to the board. Total confusion from the start.
They may still end up approving a much smaller number of new deputies for the grant, but this won’t be the big hurrah that the sheriff was counting on.
Speaking of the sheriff, he wasn’t here as a team player to help commissioners figure it out. And I'm confident he will use this as political capital to throw commissioners under the bus.
I’m beginning to wonder whether Prendergast gives a rip about us. Seriously…what is up with this guy?
— 7:30 p.m. Two and a half hours in. We haven’t heard from the public yet. Meanwhile, I can no longer feel my toes.
— Inverness Villages 4 folks are showing up in bigger numbers and more organized. They wore black T-shirts that simply read, “IV 4.” I want one, and I’m serious about this.
I am really coming to appreciate the IV 4 residents. They’re fighting a non-developer, the county, state agencies and the weather. Every rainy day like Tuesday turns their streets to brown soup.
One gentleman’s voice broke as he talked about his mother dealing with this mess.
“It’s been very stressful. I’m asking you to do the right thing,” he said.
The board voted to keep the construction moratorium in place and ask Attorney General Ashley Moody to investigate the entire matter.
Keep showing up, IV 4 folks. People are listening.
— Residents have learned to strategize their land-use opposition. Pine Ridge residents read from scripts, where one led to another. As if someone wrote up a position paper and divided it up for three dozen people to read a section at a time.
It’s opposite to the emotional appeal commissioners are used to hearing. Time will tell if this works, but even from my back-row view, I can tell some commissioners are starting to fade.
— 11:15 p.m. Final vote: Unanimous in favor of the residents, against the developer. Most everyone left happy.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.