One last county commission meeting of 2022 so let’s talk about that for a minute.
The three major issues on Tuesday’s agenda are all holdovers from the prior board.
That’s what happens. Changing of the guard rarely happens with issues being wrapped up nice and neat.
There are exceptions: The old county commission interviewed, picked and hired a county administrator in the 11th hour before new commissioners took office.
Generally new boards, or new mixes of boards, inherit ongoing issues. Sometimes they radically alter the course of those issues by doing away with unpopular programs, which is what happened to the C.R. 491 medical corridor eight years ago.
This new board doesn’t come across as one that wants to put the brakes on anything in particular. If anything, commissioners seem eager to solve problems.
For example, Tuesday’s agenda includes:
— 1:30 p.m.: plans for the new animal shelter in Lecanto. Great opportunity for the board and public to get a real understanding of where this project sits, how the design is shaking out, what the final costs look like and how to proceed.
This animal shelter issue has gone on for eons. The prior board went for Lecanto and a design, but it wasn’t easy. A 3-2 vote where the two-commissioner minority did their best to block attempts by the majority to move forward.
Well, new day. Those two are no longer in office. And the commissioner who championed this thing from the start, Ruthie Davis Schlabach, is now board chairman.
I’m not sure where new Commissioners Diana Finegan and Rebecca Bays are on the animal shelter, but I don’t recall any campaign chatter to squash it.
Everyone should come out of this discussion with a clear understanding of what’s next for the animal shelter.
— 1:35 p.m. (likely later) discussion about affordable housing and density bonuses.
Before you get a deer in the headlights look, this is really very simple.
Density bonuses award developers with more houses per acre when a certain percentage of the total is set aside for affordable housing. Seems pretty straightforward, and it makes for an excellent discussion point for our new commissioners.
Prior boards never knew what to do with affordable housing. Zoning conflicts that bring whole neighborhoods of angry neighbors to county commission meetings is not the answer.
We need to have a talk about affordable housing and what exactly that means. Finegan struck a chord on the campaign trail when, during the Meadowcrest mess, she sided with neighbors because of how they viewed “affordable housing.”
Well, that’s our dilemma right there. We don’t have a definition of what that means and what exactly is our target. I’m not sure we’ll reach a definition during a Tuesday afternoon board meeting, but it’s a good start.
— Commissioner Holly Davis wants an answer to the road flooding mess in Inverness Villages IV. Nightmare doesn’t begin to describe the circumstances related to this neighborhood, but Davis has taken an entirely different approach since being relieved of her two former commissioners.
Without getting into the particulars, because it’s really immaterial outside that community, Davis is asking the board for some very pointed direction. Her backup memo to commissioners shows she’s done some homework about how the board has handled these types of issues in the past.
Residents of Inverness Villages IV are used to coming to the county commission only to be told “there’s nothing we can do about it” time and again while their public streets fall into further disrepair. Now, there is a reason why the county isn’t out there repairing their streets and it’s a good one, but that reason doesn’t extend to “nothing we can do.”
Davis wants something done. I know Commissioner Jeff Kinnard wants something done. The others feel similar. Expect conversations about how to fix the problem instead of pouring out more excuses.
This is not a board to sit back while mini disasters develop into full blown train wrecks. Not at all.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.