It’s out of the frying pan and into the bonfire for Citrus County commissioners after last week’s 5-0 vote against the Sugarmill Woods apartments.
The Planning and Development Commission (PDC) meets Thursday morning and will hear for a second time the Ozello glampground zoning request.
The PDC — a necessary step before it goes to the county commission — heard this once and recommended denial but before it could go for a final vote, the owner submitted a scaled-down version. Now the review process starts again.
Not surprisingly, the opponents — of which there are many — still don’t like it. Any up zoning that will allow more than what’s allowed under the current zoning just won’t fly with these folks, whether we’re talking 40 “glampsites” or 20. Or 3.
Regardless of what the PDC does, eventually this will land in the laps of county commissioners and they’ll face another roomful of citizens on a mission to stop what they consider an invasion in the community.
So it’s fair to ask, did the county commission telegraph its glampground vote by unanimously standing up to Sweetwater Homes?
To answer that, today we will use a common ploy from the old days called the Q and A. Reporters loved the Q and A because we’re the ones asking the questions AND providing answers. It’s like interviewing ourselves and frankly, no one’s more interesting.
Q: Let’s get right to it. Was that vote a shot across the bow against new development?
A: I can see how someone could jump to that conclusion but I wouldn’t.
Q: Why not?
A: C’mon. Some things are obvious.
Q: Are we really going to do this?
A: Sorry. OK, Look, it’s a huge vote. Really, really huge. But it doesn’t necessarily point in a direction. Not yet.
Q: Explain, please.
A: Zoning cases are meant to be decided on their own individual merit, but history shows county commissions generally follow the same pendulum swing that brought them into office. If we’re in an economic downtown, every dollar store gets zoning approval. Plus, once the zoning map changes, it’s only a matter of time before someone wants to change it again. That’s how this works.
Q: Thanks for the civics lesson. What’s your point?
A: The public is extremely nervous right now about growth. We all know it. Not only growth in general, also changes in our routine. That’s what Sugarmill opposition was about and same with Ozello. Another word for it is compatibility. Does the new thing fit with the thing there now?
What that vote tells me is this board, in its first major test together, was unanimous in deciding compatibility is a very important detail.
Q: Do you have a quote that sums it up?
A: I sure do. Commissioner Diana Finegan: “Government has no place interrupting the lives of these planned neighborhoods.”
Now, THAT is a shot across the bow. I read that loud and clear. Developers who want to up zone better go into an area where they’re welcomed or face a compatibility issue that will be difficult to satisfy.
Q: That bodes well for opponents of the Ozello glampground, doesn’t it?
A: Hard to tell. The overriding issues seem similar. In both cases, opponents claim a change in the way of life. While Ozello is not a planned neighborhood, I talk with longtimers and, believe me, they have an expectation of what Ozello is and should be.
Q: Is a yes vote out of the question?
A: Not at all. For one, it’s not universally opposed, not even in Ozello. The chamber sees it as eco-tourism which will sit well with some commissioners. Good arguments on both sides.
Q: What’s your take?
A: Just Wright Citrus doesn’t offer positions on zoning cases. You know that.
Q: C’mon. You must have an opinion.
A: I have lots of opinions. But I don’t live in Ozello and I’m not a glamper. My opinion is meaningless.
Q: Anything else on your mind about zoning?
A: I just want to encourage folks to pay attention to their surroundings. Property with a pending zoning application will be posted and the Chronicle covers a lot of that stuff.
Zoning is citizen participation. That means it’s up to us to watch what’s going on in our neighborhoods so we can discuss growth in real terms and not imaginary ones.
We all have questions. Answers are elusive.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.