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Settlement on growth goes to state planners

The value of thousands of acres of property in Citrus County may soar if state planners approve changes in the county's growth plan settlement at a meeting today in Tallahassee. County planning director Vince Cautero will propose changes in the

controversial settlement between the county and the state Department of Community Affairs (DCA). That agreement severely limited development in agricultural and coastal areas and along several segments of major roads.

DCA Secretary Thomas Pelham indicated during a visit last month to Citrus that he was willing to negotiate with the county on some of the controversial issues, though he cautioned that he was not willing to concede too much.

He noted that the county had plenty of land designated for development under the settlement agreement.

County and state planners have been negotiating changes in the settlement, which will be debated at public hearings in March.

Cautero said Wednesday that he would propose changes in three areas of the settlement, but he refused to release details of his proposals.

The three areas are: The housing density allowed in agricultural and rural residential areas. The settlement agreement signed in December drastically reduced the number of homes that can be built in those areas, to one unit per 40 acres. The resulting outcry from owners of agricultural land led in part to Pelham's visit and promise to ease up somewhat on the restrictions.

Commercial zoning along major roadways. The December settlement disallowed commercial use along several segments of roadways. Pelham indicated he would accept some, but not much, easing of those restrictions if accompanied by requirements for frontage roads.

Frontage roads run parallel to main roads and channel traffic from stores and shops onto the main roads at controlled intersections, limiting access to the highways.

Boundaries of the planned service areas. A preliminary map prepared by planning staff indicates the county will seek to add about 13,690 acres to the planned service areas, where development is encouraged and roads and utilities are targeted. The proposal also would delete more than 9,000 acres from the service areas, much of it in the Citrus Springs area.

County staff developed the proposed changes after Pelham's visit, and without discussion with landowners or county commissioners, Cautero said.

Land added to the planned service areas would increase substantially in value because of the increase in development potential.

Property owners in the areas proposed for inclusion said Wednesday that they were surprised and pleased their land might be added.

Anne Kabrich, who with her husband, Donald, owns land near Floral City, said, "I've got my fingers crossed, and I'm praying, too."

Mrs. Kabrich said she thinks that most Floral City residents favor

increasing land in the planned service areas.

Ed Tolle, a Crystal River real estate agent, is the trustee for his mother-in-law for several tracts north of Crystal River included in the proposals. He said he, too, would welcome such a change.

"That would be a plus to the property," he said.