It’s the simplest things that mess me up.
I had such an easy idea for today’s blog. Write about Turkey Oak Drive, how the Betz Farm property sale is going nowhere and the road itself is a traffic jam in the making.
Somewhere along the way, I realized we’re talking about 700 words on a single road, and not even one that serves a particular purpose other than taking someone from here to there.
I guess that’s sort of the point, though.
While life goes on and we have strategic planning and all that, our road network continues to get crowded, and I don’t hear a single leadership voice calling attention to it.
It’s lovely October but soon it’ll be Snowbird-season-ending November and we know what that means — everyone and his sister on S.R. 44 in the morning, midday, and evening. A steady line of brake lights on U.S. 41 between Hernando and Inverness. Backups into Crystal River.
I see trouble spots everywhere. Numerous new businesses going in without right-turn lanes. You know what that means--start, stop-start, stop-start along our commercial roadways.
(Mini-rant. Am I wrong here? Can a single government person tell me why we don’t require developers to install turn lanes? I’m not sure I even see any along C.R. 491 at the new Target shopping center. Sheesh!)
So, back to Turkey Oak. Of all our roads, I see Turkey Oak as Exhibit A of our current transportation woes.
Turkey Oak is a connector road. It skirts northwest Crystal River and is perfect for a bypass. The city desperately wants traffic off U.S. 19 cutting through town and the best way to take care of that, at least from the northern end, is off Turkey Oak.
City leaders realized that as well. They asked the state for money to improve intersections. They sought a study to find out whether Suncoast Parkway traffic would head west to Crystal River and a potential bypass.
But here’s what else they did: The city approved RV campgrounds on each end of Turkey Oak. I’m not critical of those calls but they clearly weren’t made with an eye toward the transportation future.
With the Crystal River Mall becoming a future retail/residential development of some type, and the county heck-bent on selling Betz Farm solely for financial reasons knowing it's going to bring even more traffic to a burdened street, you see what’s left with Turkey Oak: A road with no strategic value. Just asphalt.
Then what? Widen it? Avoid it?
The maddening thing about Turkey Oak is with even a cursory amount of planning we can get past this.
Betz Farm, for example. I’ve written several times about the lack of cohesive planning for the Betz Farm property. The county just wants to get rid of it at this point and make enough money to build an animal shelter.
But that's terrible leadership. Actually, it's no leadership. Doesn’t Citrus County have a responsibility to its citizens for Betz Farm, not just to get a decent return on the dollar? Or maybe I'm wrong. Just sell the dang thing and let the new owner burn tires.
That's crazy, of course, but is it? The county has turned a blind eye to all its stewardship responsibility of that property. Commissioners can't say they protect us from overdevelopment if they're adding to it.
The most recent Betz Farm offer shot down by commissioners included a bunch of contingencies, including one that called for a minimum threshold of 800 homes. While the county is loath to get into that kind of detail on a sales contract, the stuff I hear from development types suggests there are a ton of challenges to the property.
Those challenges are preventing the type of buyer Citrus County wants. One with hard cash.
This calls for out-of-the-box thinking. At the moment there is only in-the-box thinking.
Look. It’s only Turkey Oak Drive and if we lose a bypass to an RV parade, so be it.
But it’s an example of us kind of feeling our way in the dark.
It’s been a while since I mentioned it, but this county sure could use a long-range transportation master plan. Something with the county and both cities to develop our road needs now and into the future, and then start plugging in ways to pay for it.
No one is saying this is going to be easy or painless. Without conversation, though, we’re just stuck in traffic, wondering how it all happened.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.