One of those days I can’t think straight. So please sit back and relax while I ramble a bit.
— Sugarmill Woods residents continue with their full-court press on the county commission regarding the 250-apartment zoning case.
This week’s random email batch came from Commissioner Jeff Kinnard. I didn’t count, but there were at least 30 or so emails from residents against the plan to change zoning on property in Oak Village from houses to apartments. Similar numbers each week for the past several weeks.
Zoning is always the ultimate “not in my backyard” debate as the folks most likely to oppose a zoning change are the immediate neighbors who would be affected by it.
Some zoning cases, though, go beyond normal neighborhood stuff. There is deep history and an expectation from homeowners that certain things will not change. In Sugarmill, that certain thing is only houses and condos in a development known for its large lots, strictly enforced deed restrictions and open space.
Apartments don’t fit. It’s an almost identical argument Meadowcrest residents used to oppose apartments in their neighborhood, a fight they lost in a 3-2 county commission vote.
Right now we have two such cases pending: Sugarmill and the Ozello glampground. I’m beginning to think the traditional zoning debates of old will fade and instead, we’re going to see very intense battlegrounds between residents and developers, with county commissioners trying to sort it out.
By the way, residents who email county commissioners with an opinion on zoning matters shouldn’t expect anything but a vague reply, if any at all. A horrible law that I can’t stand discourages elected officials from interacting with citizens on zoning cases unless it’s in public. Like a court case.
Kinnard’s reply to the Sugarmill Woods zoning opponents:
“Thank you for contacting me about this application. I’ve received many emails from your neighbors expressing similar concerns. I will certainly keep your concerns in mind when this application comes before the BOCC.”
Not sure if that's a message or not.
— I’ve been wanting to write about PUDs — planned unit developments. PUDs are those where the developer not only wants the zoning changed, he wants it tweaked to conform to a specific plan.
PUDs are smart planning. Former Commissioner Ron Kitchen Jr. is the one who started pushing PUDs over ordinary zoning changes because the PUD is specific to the project where a zoning change is tied to the land.
Kitchen’s point was commissioners shouldn’t approve blank zoning changes without some assurance on what exactly a developer is planning to build on the property. PUDs remove the guesswork.
Developers usually go for PUDs because they want higher density — more houses. Since PUDs are effectively hybrid zoning, commissioners have a lot of sway how these things are spelled out.
Someone, by the way, needs to tell commissioners that. I keep hearing nonsense like people have a right to develop their property as they see fit. Yes — as it is NOW zoned. Property owners have ZERO right to upzoning. None. Zilch. They only have the right to ask and, if they feel wronged by the decision, to appeal it in court.
Another line of hooey that we heard during the Meadowcrest apartments debate: Rezoning from commercial to residential is actually downzoning because stores and restaurants bring more traffic than apartments.
Hmm. That makes a lot of sense. Except…it doesn’t! C’mon, this isn’t rocket science. Economics drive zoning, not the other way around. If a developer thought he could make a score building shops and restaurants, that’s what he’ll do. If the money points to apartments, he’ll go that way.
Developers aren’t doing us favors. They see cash in Citrus County and that’s it. I’m all in favor of awesome, beautiful new developments to add to our quality of life. I’m not in favor of county government sitting back while every square inch of dirt is paved over with no plan to handle that growth.
Not saying that’s taking place. I’m saying I’d like to hear a little more conversation from the county commission about these PUDs before approving them.
— That’s it. Sugarmill apartments and PUDs. My work here today is finished.
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.