Our Wednesday word for the day: barndominium.
Never heard of it? I didn't until perusing Commissioner Diana Finegan’s email batch from last week and seeing roughly 100 form emails from people who want county commissioners to keep their regulatory mitts off "barndominiums."
The emails were in the form of a petition asking for “permitting to be easier for homeowners, that barn-homes/barndomimiums should be allowed anywhere mobile homes are allowed, and that Citrus County should not be able to deny permits based on what THEY FEEL a home should LOOK like.”
One man, a longtime Citrus County draftsman, signed the petition and said he’s getting more interest from people looking to build these specialty types of homes.
“In recent years, the ‘barndominium’ concept has become very popular,” he wrote. “In fact, 50% of our current owner/builder clients choose to build either wood/steel pole barn structures or all steel structures to be used as single-family residences.”
OK, so what’s the problem?
Before I go to the county’s position on this, take a peek out your front door. If you live in a regular neighborhood, the houses probably look roughly the same as yours. Drive through any Citrus County community, and you’ll find the same thing.
The draftsman and those who signed the petition don’t believe it’s the county’s role to decide what a house should look like on the outside.
“I do not feel that any governmental body should have an opinion that stops the public from building what they wish on private, non-deed-restricted lands as long as the design meets or exceeds the current Florida building codes,” he wrote.
One of the commissioners must have asked Eric Landon, growth management director, what the heck these emails are about. Landon said houses should have “residential character” before being permitted in regular single-family neighborhoods.
The problem is a barndominium doesn’t look like a traditional house. It resembles a fancy barn (and, yes, that does remind me of a funny Charlie Dean barn story).
Not sure if this is going to rise past a batch of emails, but I found it interesting.
— In the, “Be careful what you ask for” department, the county received a five-year $5.375 million Department of Justice grant to hire 44 new sheriff’s patrol deputies.
Great news, right?
Yes, of course. Here’s the challenge: While the grant pays for one-third the salaries of new officers for three years, the county pays for everything else — including all salaries in grant years 4 and 5.
If the sheriff’s office is successful in filling 44 additional positions, a $5.37 million grant award will cost the county $14.5 million total over the first three years, and an unknown amount the last two years of the grant.
Let’s break it down.
I’m not going to detail the sheriff’s annual request for staffing because the numbers are always so confusing. But last May the sheriff’s office asked commissioners to support its request for the COPS — Community Oriented Policing Services — grant. The grant would fund one-third salaries for up to 44 deputies for three years. The county would pay the rest.
The grant cycle is five years, but the federal dollars are only good for three. That leaves the county entirely on the hook for the final two years and in reality, the county should count on that annual amount every year after since it’s not like they’re going to eliminate 44 deputy positions when the grant runs dry.
We all want more deputies on the road. But we are talking about a ton of money and are a little shy on the financial particulars.
I watched the video of the May meeting when they discussed this. Commissioners had questions and some were confused, but eventually unanimously voted to apply for the grant.
What they didn’t agree on, or even discuss, is how/where they’d come up with the millions of dollars to match the grant if we were successful. Everyone, from the sheriff’s office to the county, dismissed the idea that we’d get the full grant request or even half of it. There didn’t seem any urgency.
In fact, it says so in the minutes: “If the grant is approved, then the board will find the money.”
Well, there you go.
— Finally, word from the Florida Department of Transportation that it plans to resurface S.R. 44 between U.S. 41 and the Sumter County line in 2024.
Included is a traffic signal at Gospel Island Road, as pushed by Commissioners Jeff Kinnard and Rebecca Bays. The state, which hemmed and hawed (sure we’ll do it if YOU pay for it), now has apparently decided to include it with a resurfacing project.
And I have no opinion on this traffic signal. So there.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.