A few odds and ends for your Citrus County Wednesday…
— A developer is considering buying the Crystal River Mall with plans to turn it into something other than a mall.
Details are lacking at this point, but expect the city of Crystal River to soon receive an application to remove the mall Development of Regional Impact, or DRI, that sets in stone what the property’s development should look like.
DRIs were the rage in the 1980s and ‘90s for developments that were of such a scale that they touched other jurisdictions or had significant impacts on roads, environment and water quality.
The Crystal River Mall DRI, for example, requires the vacant land on the northwest corner of the mall property for general commercial use. The proposed developer, I’m told, has another use for the land that coincides with his retrofit plans for the mall itself.
I know this is fairly vague and I apologize about the lack of specifics. But nothing is a done deal yet and even once the city receives a development application, there are still numerous hoops to jump through.
Just wanted you to know there’s something in the works for the Crystal River Mall. Soon as the details become available, I’ll pass them on.
— Speaking of DRIs, the county received its two official offers for the former Betz Farm property on Turkey Oak Drive.
Betz Farm became a DRI in 1988 from Tamposi Family Investment Properties, which planned a housing community on 350 acres.
The development never came to be. Tamposi eventually gave the property to the county in exchange for impact fee credits after installing sidewalks, underground utilities and building a large portion of Turkey Oak.
Now the county wants to sell it. Tamposi offered $5.5 million, as did a Tampa real estate developer named Hamid Ashtari. Then, just as commissioners were about to decide between those two, Sarasota developer Carlos Beruff offered $6 million.
Commissioners gave interested parties until Friday to submit final offers.
Ashtari came in at $6.6 million and Beruff at $6.5 million. Tamposi didn’t budge off his initial offer.
Just Wright Citrus reported last week about Beruff and all the red flags for the county selling publicly owned property to a developer who is known for giving local governments a hard time about regulations.
It’s one thing if he buys 350 acres of private property in Citrus County and goes about his development shenanigans. We deal with that.
But selling Beruff taxpayer-owned property is effectively handing him the stick to whack us with. At least it seems that way.
As for Ashtari, I couldn’t find much about him. He has two companies, Sweetwater Group LLC and Cardinal Farms Group LLC, the latter being the owner of 147 acres of vacant land off Cardinal Street near the Suncoast Parkway. I’m not sure what he has in store there.
The stakes are significant. The Betz Farm DRI is already approved for over 1,500 homes — 1,014 “clustered” houses and 528 condos. Whoever buys the property inherits that development plan.
Commissioners will decide Tuesday. Keep in mind, they’re not on the hook to pick either of these two suitors.
— Was sorry to learn Tuesday that Nancy Pierson dropped out of the House District 23 race so that she can move her mother from Michigan and take care of her.
With four Republicans — Ralph Massullo, Rebecca Bays, Tod Cloud and Paul Reinhardt — running in a heavy Republican district, Nancy was the lone Democrat.
It isn’t easy rallying for Democrats in this county. The chances of one being elected to a partisan office is incredibly slim. No Democrat has come close in quite some time.
Nancy didn’t let that deter her. When we met one morning at Cattle Dog for a chat, I was impressed with her positive nature and competitive spirit. Despite the odds of winning, I knew Nancy would bring an ‘A’ game to the conversation.
Her withdrawal puts the Democrats in a tight spot with just six weeks until ballot qualifying. That said, I would be remiss in mentioning that if the Dems DON’T bring a candidate to the table, the situation I explained in Tuesday’s blog comes true — everyone gets to vote in the Republican primary because all the candidates are Republican.
Good candidates are harder to find than you might think. We just lost a good one.
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