Some opinions I should just keep to myself.
The one place that’s best for me to avert my eyes and cross the street, is any matter of zoning.
Few things the government decides are as deeply personal as zoning. It’s someone’s neighborhood, their home. Things are said and repeated, friendships formed and lost. Occasionally, someone emerges from a good zoning fight with an eye on elected office.
Zoning is a neighborhood squabble settled by county commissioners.
A contentious land-use case, and it’s safe to say the Fishcreek Glampround in Ozello fits that bill, well, the smart move is to stay out of the fray.
So of course I won’t. A few observations:
— The particulars: Changing 16 acres from coastal residential to an RV/campground district for 68 RV, glamping and primitive campsites. Considering it’s Ozello, we’re on somewhat fertile zoning ground here.
— The County Commission has a public hearing at 5 p.m. Tuesday. I’m expecting oh, roughly, a zillion people. Both sides have a decent amount of folks and then there are opponents from splinter environmental groups.
— Opponents have been consistent. I’ve gotten emails from Ozello residents, including two on Sunday, that make it clear this project has no place in Ozello. To them, end of story.
— Chamber of Commerce President Josh Wooten is the leading proponent other than the applicants themselves. Wooten arranged for me to meet the owners, Jen and Dimitri Magradze, who gave me a tour of the property last week.
— I am a frequent visitor to Ozello, at least once a week lately. I wrote many stories at the Chronicle about the community’s successful attempts against rezoning for condos at Pirates Cove. And I’ve covered in the blog my belief that Ozello deserves a special look from commissioners before this vote.
My point: I’m paying attention. If you really don’t care but are just interested, here’s the board agenda. Scroll down to Public Hearings at the bottom and you’ll see a whole bunch of links to back up reports and emails on the glampground.
— It’s a beautiful piece of property, no doubt. I could see it was a campground of some sort long ago. The owners have a vision.
Walking about, as they explained this and that, it bugged me that county commissioners couldn’t do the same thing. The law discourages commissioners from any interaction with the public on zoning matters outside the public meeting.
This is the same law that results in automated email responses from commissioners when you want an opinion known on a zoning matter. I’m not a fan of the law or the county’s rather conservative interpretation of it.
The Fishcreek Glampground is a very, very, very big vote. Yes or no, it’ll affect the character of Ozello for years to come. Why do we bar decision-makers from seeing the thing up close? Or from sitting down with neighbors so they could point out their specific concerns?
Commissioners are at a disadvantage. Unlike everyone else in the room, most of what they know about the glampground comes from the public record. How drab.
— These hotly debated public hearings are rough on everybody. Everyone knows going in that barring something unforeseen, we’re all there for several hours. It starts at 5 p.m., and an 11 p.m. end is not out of the question. And I’m being optimistic.
Commissioners soak it all up. Because of that silly law, commissioners rely solely on what’s presented to the public hearing to help formulate their vote.
Usually, someone will accuse commissioners of having their minds made up ahead of time. I wouldn’t go there. For one thing, this commission scrutinizes each zoning case. Commissioners haven’t developed any pattern other than making developers sweat.
— Commissioners are once again faced with a very tough zoning call. I will say this: A yes vote doesn’t carry as much countywide message as a no vote. Let me explain:
This isn’t a typical zoning case. Unlike Sugarmill Woods apartments or Pine Ridge homes on a golf course, the Ozello glampground stands alone. No one has issues that Ozello has.
So if commissioners say yes to the Ozello rezoning, that wouldn’t convey the same message as saying yes on a traditional zoning case.
A no vote, however, could go beyond Ozello because this board has been saying no lately and the no’s start to add up.
It’s a tough call. Someone’s walking out unhappy. The cold reality of zoning.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.