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County seeks wider growth // Expanded development areas would raise property values

County planners will ask the state Department of Community Affairs (DCA) on Thursday to add large sections of land to the areas where development is allowed under the growth plan settlement. The changes call for the addition of about 13,690 acres to the planned service areas (PSAs), those parts of the county where development is encouraged and construction of roads and utilities is planned.

The additions, if approved by the DCA, would increase property values for some of the largest landholders in the county by adding more of their land to the service areas.

Additions are proposed in four areas, according to a preliminary map and estimates prepared by county staff. Planning director Vince Cautero is scheduled to present those proposals to DCA Secretary Thomas Pelham and members of his staff in Tallahassee on Thursday.

Although the proposals call for deletion of about 9,530 acres from the planned service areas, most of it in the Citrus Springs area, removal of that land will have little effect on its development potential.

Citrus Springs is a recorded subdivision and therefore exempt from the land-use restrictions the growth plan places on land outside the PSAs.

The result of the changes, if approved by the DCA, would be a substantial increase in the amount of land in the county that can be developed.

Pelham indicated last month during a visit to Citrus County that he might accept changes to the PSAs if other areas were removed, but it remains to be seen whether he will approve deletion of areas that have vested rights for development.

Pelham was unavailable for comment Tuesday.

The boundaries of the planned service areas have been contested since county commissioners reluctantly agreed to a settlement with the DCA over the comprehensive plan in December.

The stringent land-use restrictions outside those areas drastically reduce the development potential, and therefore the resale value, of the property, especially agricultural land.

The changes proposed by county staff at the request of county commissioners and some of the landowners would include much land in the Floral City area, despite a lack of plans for sewer service in that area.

One change would extend the boundary of the service area south to the site of a proposed road from State Road 48 west to County Road 581, which would open the land along that proposed road to development.

Most of the land is owned by members of the Rooks family, which owns vast amounts of farmland in the county. Also added would be land west of U.S. 41 owned by Donald Kabrich. Kabrich and his wife, Anne, have been vocal opponents of the county's settlement agreement.

The other three proposed additions are: An area in the central portion of the county near Grover Cleveland

Boulevard and County Road 491.

An area near Holder that can be served by the Canterbury Lakes sewer system under construction. Henry Leland, county development service director, said the area also includes three existing industrial parks that require sewer service.

A large section east of U.S. 19 north of the Crystal River Mall.

The mall is expected to drastically increase land values north of the city.

Cautero and his staff have been working on the map changes since Pelham's visit, fielding requests from the commissioners, landowners and their attorneys. Cautero was unavailable for comment Tuesday.

Leland said that when county planners meet with Pelham and his staff Thursday they will also seek to add a stretch of U.S. 19 north and south of Homosassa Springs to the commercial use zones.

The settlement agreement removed commercial designations from undeveloped property along several sections of major roads, prompting an outcry from affected property owners. Leland said the proposal would restore the commercial designation for the area on both sides of U.S. 19 from Ozello Road to County Road 480.

Leland said the county proposals also would contain a requirement for construction of frontage roads along that stretch, designed to ease traffic burdens caused by development along major roads.