This is the sort of thing that makes people crazy about the government.
Not in a good way.
Remember the County Commission having a long discussion and vote last week on whether to stop all permitted work on new homes under construction at Inverness Villages 4?
The county had months ago placed a moratorium on new permits in IV 4 to stop the construction madness in a development with no real roads or drainage.
That didn’t achieve the desired results, I guess, so the next move was to stop ALL work in the development. Folks getting homes built were victims even though they had done nothing wrong.
Some of us wondered gee, this seems illegal.
Turns out it is.
County Administrator Steve Howard sent commissioners this email on Friday:
“It was brought to my attention yesterday from the County’s licensed building code administrator ‘building official’ the decision the Board of County Commissioners made conflicted with Florida Statutes. My duty as County Administrator is to carry out the directives and policies of the board of county commissioners and ensure they are faithfully executed. Due to this conflict, I am unable to carry out your directive.”
So, after all that the county can’t just unilaterally wake up on a Tuesday and padlock someone’s building permit without having an actual, you know, legal REASON to do so.
He wasn’t available Monday, but I wanted to ask Howard, “Why didn’t anyone find this out BEFORE the vote?
Let’s unpack it.
Thanks to the magic of links, I don’t need to go on and on about the IV 4 story, so let’s just jump to the latest.
At last Tuesday’s board meeting, Chairman Holly Davis recommended a total stop on all work in the development to grab the attention of those she refers to as “bad actors.”
Now. It's one thing to red tag a building permit before any work is done. It’s a whole other issue to stop construction on a house that’s already begun without a reason to do so.
Several people went to the microphone Tuesday to spell out the obvious: That’s not fair. They have construction loans, the builder is receiving draws on those loans, work is progressing on a house…and the government simply stops it because it has an unrelated issue with the builder?
And not just a house or two: 90 active permits under the IV 4 contractor’s name.
I watched Tuesday’s meeting from home. All during the discussion, I kept thinking: Where is the county attorney on this? What’s the legal justification for barring someone’s use of their property?
After seeing Howard’s email Monday, I rewatched the discussion. A few things stood out:
— A local lawyer known for brash statements got up and not only urged the county’s actions, he said it had the legal recourse to do so. The lawyer said he represents some IV 4 residents — in what manner, I do not know.
— Numerous inquiries from commissioners, particularly Diana Finegan and Ruthie Davis Schlabach, went unanswered by staff. Either staffers didn’t have the answer, or they didn’t want to say it publicly. Not exactly comforting.
— IV 4 residents who dare to question the county’s sincerity are treated like ungrateful traitors.
— Finegan pressed County Attorney Denise Dymond Lyn to say, yes or no, Can the county put a stop-work order on construction? Her answer, indirectly: No.
Look. I don’t want to get into weeds here more than is necessary.
But my gosh, this is not the way to get things done. Apparently, Davis didn't ask anyone who works for the county government beforehand whether the county can stop work on a permitted house. We shouldn't care less what a private attorney with an agenda says or thinks.
Time is tickin’ for IV 4 residents. Their roads turn to pudding once thunderstorm season starts, and these shenanigans don’t help.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.