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Commission ignoring taxpayers' interests

Editor: When I addressed the County Commission on Tuesday, I questioned the hiring of a lawyer at $185 per hour - taxpayers' expense - to fight against our Department of Community Affair's insistence on an end to strip commercial development, the need for service concurrency and a more conservative division of residential land use. I reminded the commission that our Inverness Highlands South and West Divisions were zoned by Citrus Development Services as RG-1 (7,200 square-foot lots) in an earlier comprehensive plan, and the board had been prepared to accept this intensive development. It finally approved RS-3 zoning to agree with our deed restrictions even though I explained that most property owners in the Highlands West, First Addition, had bought larger lots (one-half to three acres) with an intention of keeping them that way. The Board of County

Commissioners deliberately encouraged intense development for us without service-concurrency requirements.

On the basis of the votes regarding our Highlands and the hoops

commissioners made the First Addition jump through to regain our RS-1 property use, I accuse the commission of pushing for more intense development without any real concern for quality or the residential taxpayers' interests. I merely used commissioners' own votes as an example of intent.

Commissioner Skip Hudson responded with paternal assurance that he and the majority of the board have worked hard to protect the environment and to develop communities in Citrus that would attract executives from surrounding metropolitan areas. He said the Highlands would not attract such people, but "quality" developments such as Black Diamond, Sugarmill Woods and the new Tamposi development would.

Having said that, he walked out of the chambers with Commissioner Wayne Weaver.

Commissioner Nick Bryant took his turn, expressing some annoyance that unnamed people have misled the residents with letters and comments, encouraging telephone calls to support DCA Secretary Tom Pelham's position, which would intensify growth in Inverness without financing the roads in that city. He said Mr. Pelham's plan would require higher local taxes and would put future growth where it should not go instead of putting it in the middle of the county. Having said this, he said, "I rest my case," and walked out of the chamber.

Lacking a quorum, Chairman Wilbur Langley closed the meeting.

Neither commissioner actually satisfied my complaint. Remember low taxes in Citrus during the no-growth period before development was strongly encouraged?

Taxes will go up now with or without Mr. Pelham, for he is only the messenger. State government is telling us that Citrus must pay for its own growth. That's all. Officials say we have to plan the least expensive growth without depending on state financing, and they recommend restraints that help us do this. Petulant, childish arguments against this approach will not lower our costs.

Either Citrus County collects taxes for its growth or the state collects for it, but we taxpayers will be forced to pay for the freight and the political servicing either way. The best way to grow is by planning the cost in advance.

Commissioners' votes in the past have encouraged more intense development in every area of Citrus County, and each vote has raised our taxes. Impact fees (passed to home-buyers as a non-tax) do not pay for existing deficiencies, and the faster we grow, the more deficiencies we will create.

The money for "quality" development does not come from tooth fairies, Commissioner Hudson. All growth increases taxes. There are no free roads. The taxes I pay in the Highlands will service the unpaid bills for any Citrus developer who chooses to file Chapter 11, and it is mightily unfair for the rest of us to pay more so that three or four developments can provide "quality." Deltona Corp. long ago promised "quality" to Citrus Springs, but it couldn't satisfy that promise. For every developer who makes a million-dollar profit, there will be 50,000 taxpayers who must pay $170 to service payments for that profit - with or without the "quality."

I will not rest my case.

G. Lee Cloward Inverness Citrus residents support comprehensive plan

Editor: Unless most of our county commissioners have lost touch entirely with their constituencies (numbered in people, not in dollars, that is), they surely must realize that a large majority of the people of Citrus County favor the comprehensive plan as advocated by the state Department of Community Affairs (DCA).

I do not have access to a polling apparatus, nor do I sit in the board rooms of the Meadowcrest corporations or the Tamposi interests or the Dixie Hollins mining companies, but I do talk to a lot of ordinary residents, and I have yet to hear one word of support from the man on the street for the adversarial and obstructionist stance being taken by our County Commission in the matter of the comprehensive plan.

The DCA has arrived at the plan only after much input by experts from many fields. It is carefully thought out, soundly based in fact and has the benefit of much trial and error experience in other counties. I can think of no sound reasons why the DCA would act in any manner except in the best interests of the residents of Citrus County and the state of Florida; on the other hand, I can see many reasons why the Citrus County commissioners (with the single notable exception of Hank Cohen) are acting in the manner they are, and none of them seem to be related to the best interests of the "silent majority" of

this county.

James Bitter Homosassa