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Land plan accords reached // State, county settle differences

The state on Thursday approved a Citrus County plan that will makethousands of acres in the county ripe for commercial and residential

development.

The state Department of Community Affairs (DCA) also agreed to boost the number of homes that can be built on farmland from one home per 40 acres to one per 10 acres.

The proposals are part of a settlement agreement reached in December by the state and county on Citrus County's growth management plan. The revised agreement now must be approved by the County Commission after public hearings in March.

DCA Secretary Thomas Pelham accepted most of the proposals presented by County Planning Director Vince Cautero during a 45-minute meeting in Pelham's office.

Here is a summary of the changes agreed upon: The county will add more than 13,000 acres to the Planned Service Areas (PSA). Those are portions of the county where development is encouraged and where construction of utilities and roads will take place. Development outside those areas is strictly limited.

To offset those increases, Cautero proposed cutting more than 9,000 acres from the PSAs, most of it in the Citrus Springs area. The combined changes would not increase the total density, or number of homes per acre, within the PSAs - a condition set by DCA, Cautero said.

Only 100 building permits will be issued each year in those areas of Citrus Springs that will be dropped from the PSAs, Cautero said.

He explained that, under state regulations, many lots in the Citrus Springs area can have homes built on them with only wells and septic tanks. Setting the 100-permit limit will curtail the number of homes built with septic tanks and encourage construction of sewer lines in those areas - a prime goal of the county comprehensive plan, Cautero said.

Pelham agreed to Cautero's proposal to restore commercial use to a stretch of U.S. 19 north and south of Homosassa Springs. But he demanded strict assurances that the county will not allow any commercial development there until it is certain that a frontage road will be built to handle the traffic created by that development.

Pelham has long said he will not sacrifice traffic flow on state roadways by allowing strip development along them.

Both sides agreed that the limit of one home per 40 acres, as part of the settlement agreement signed by the County Commission and Pelham in December, was too severe. The new proposal sets those densities at one home per 10 acres. That, Cautero said, is low enough to discourage large-scale development while still preserving farmland.

Several local residents traveled to Tallahassee to attend the meeting. Anne and Donald Kabrich of Floral City, whose land was added to the PSAs, presented Pelham with a stack of signatures from Floral City residents supporting the changes.

County Commissioner Nick Bryant said after the meeting he was pleased that the two sides had compromised.

"It's a workable plan," said Bryant, who has sharply criticized the DCA during the lengthy battle over the growth plan. Pelham "showed a little flexibility toward the local government," he said.

Cautero said he will submit a written proposal summarizing Thursday's results to DCA within a week so that state officials can review it before the public hearings in March.

Pelham, continuing the spirit of cooperation, promised to return it promptly. "I'll assure you of a one-day turn-around," he said.

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