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Citrus may pull out of regional planning panel

Citrus County may drop out of the Withlacoochee Regional Planning Council, a move that would trim $35,000 from the county budget next year.

Charles Harwood, executive director of the council, is scheduled to appear before the County Commission on Tuesday to explain the value of the agency to the county.

He is likely to face tough questioning from board members who see the agency as just another level of bureaucracy.

"I want him to substantiate what we're paying him for," said Commission Chairman Gary Bartell, who represents Citrus on the Planning Council. "As a member I have a lot of questions. I just don't see what the benefit of it is."

Bartell said the council played an important role years ago, before the county developed its own planning staff. Now Citrus does not rely on the council for information.

The five-county Planning Council reviews major development projects and amendments to local comprehensive plans.

In the past, it had regulatory authority over projects, but Bartell says its mission has changed to an advisory role.

The Planning Council staff has prepared a lengthy list of items the agency has handled for Citrus County and its residents. County planning staffers, however, have disputed the list, suggesting the assistance has been much less significant.

Harwood is scheduled to address the commission at 1:45 p.m. in the commission chambers Tuesday.