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County review halts Indian River dredging

City officials already have granted Burnup and Sims Inc. a permit, but before the company can begin to bulldoze at the Indian River canal, Citrus County officials want to review the dredging project.

If the company doesn't comply, County Attorney Larry Haag said Tuesday that he will seek a court order to stop dredging at Crystal Cove.

That decision comes during a jurisdiction dispute between Citrus County and the city of Crystal River over whose rules apply to the 800-acre Crystal Cove project.

Although Burnup and Sims moved heavy equipment onto the property several days ago, county zoning officials visited the site Tuesday and said they could not see that any work had begun.

Haag said he has spoken to the developer's attorney and has his assurance that Burnup and Sims will apply for a county review of the project before starting the dredging.

Bill Roberts, the Tallahassee lawyer representing Burnup and Sims, confirmed what Haag said. "That's our present plan," Roberts said.

The word that Citrus County would review the dredging plan was welcome to Crystal River environmentalist Helen Spivey, who sounded the alarm about the project when she learned Monday about the city permit.

"Maybe for once in my life, I screamed at the right time," Spivey said Tuesday.

Spivey, who represents various environmental groups, has been fighting the Crystal Cove project for more than a decade. She was hoping for a county review of the project because the county's regulations are stricter than the city's.

The confusion over the permits emerged because the city annexed the Burnup and Sims property late last year. But since the city's comprehensive growth plan has not yet been amended to include the large parcel, the county's comprehensive plan and regulations still apply.

Despite the county attorney's ruling, City Manager Merv Waldrop said he still stands by the city's decision to grant a permit.

He said his staff thinks the dredging is consistent with the county's comprehensive plan.

But county attorney Haag said the county, not the city, should make that determination.

According to Roberts, the work on the property will include widening portions of the Indian River Canal up to 15 feet to create a better water flow, digging out several indentations along the canal and hauling away the fill.

Roberts said that the work originally had been permitted about 10 years ago and was 95 percent complete when the past owner of the development went bankrupt. Then the permits expired and the new owner _ Burnup and Sims _ had to go back to the various state and federal agencies seeking new permits.

"We're simply trying to finish the work that's been started over a number of years," Roberts said.

For some 20 years, various owners have been trying to build the subdivision, but changing ownership and regulations have complicated the process.

For example, Crystal Cove originally was to include 2,400 units. Now city officials have told the developer it might be able to build only 500 units, Roberts said.

Other property on the tract will be set aside for conservation, including 131 acres of wetlands to be deeded to the state, he said.