The voice on the phone was desperate.
“Can’t something be done about this?” she pleaded.
I almost didn’t take the call because it came from someone living in Inverness Villages Unit 4. I am very familiar with that neighborhood from my Chronicle days.
The development along Independence Boulevard in Inverness is best known for its streets — its unpaved, supposedly public streets.
I drove through there Monday afternoon and am shocked at the condition of the streets. These aren’t private sugar sand roads off rural Cardinal Lane. This is a development where a smorgasbord of $200,000 homes are cropping up along public rocky roads that are narrow and best resemble Third World infrastructure on a bad day.
Citrus Springs has streets of gold compared to these.
The photo with today’s blog was sent to me by one of the neighbors. I took a similar photo of half the street washed out from Monday’s rain.
You may be wondering, if these are public streets, why doesn’t the county take care of them?
Well, that’s not an easy answer.
I’m not going to break it down too much; this Chronicle story has most of the background.
Basically the original developer gave the county a check for $143,600 that would eventually go toward paving streets in Inverness Villages. Well, one thing led to another and the money was used toward the paving of some roads, which residents paid for through a special assessment.
But the county never built the roads. The successor developer sued and in 2016, a judge ruled the county wasn’t on the hook for the roads even though they were “dedicated” (government term meaning “given”) to the county.
The county, however, never “accepted” the roads for maintenance reasons. I haven’t a clue how someone can give private roads to the county, the county takes them as public property — but then not have to take care of them.
There is talk of an MSBU to raise the funds needed to repave streets. Residents are OK with that plan, though they’re not thrilled about paying thousands of dollars more on top of a hefty mortgage.
And, yes, it’s fair to question the wisdom of people who pay good money for a house on a rock and dirt road. Residents told me they were under the impression this MSBU process wouldn’t take long; meanwhile with every heavy afternoon rain their streets break apart.
The developer says it isn’t his problem.
The county says it isn’t theirs. It placed signs, almost mocking motorists, alongside the rock roads, letting them know these are county roads not maintained by the county.
And the Southwest Florida Water Management District, which we call Swiftmud, says all the work being done in Inverness Villages Unit 4 is without an environmental resources permit. It wants the work stopped or else.
Yet homes are going up, the roads are washing away and no one is helping these poor people. And they’ve been told it’ll take two or three years before the MSBU is finalized to pave the streets.
That is unacceptable government gobbly goop.
County commissioners, this is where you come in. What Inverness Villages residents need is their elected leaders to listen and care. And then act:
— Be a liaison between the residents, builder, county and other agencies, such as Swiftmud. Someone who can get all the voices together.
— Get answers from the county as to how all this is allowed to happen. Not the entire history, but an explanation on how the county is able to permit houses on dirt roads in a development with Swiftmud violations. That’s illogical to my puny brain.
— Get smart people in a room and figure out how to move this MSBU process up to emergency status. Two or three years when the roads are washing out today? C’mon.
— And can’t the county make emergency repairs to the roads now?
Remember, these are public streets, not private ones. So it’s not the same as the school bus that won’t drive down your private road because it’s muddy or thick with sand. Commissioners tend to steer clear of that.
The folks in Inverness Villages Unit 4, many of them new to our community, find themselves in a pickle not of their making. They look to Citrus County elected leaders to help them out. All roads lead to the Courthouse.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.