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Retiring to Citrus County? // Think twice, new book says

Published Jul. 6, 2006

Citrus County isn't a bad place to retire, but life can be too slow and U.S. 19 is plagued by "visual eyesores," a new book says.

Crystal River, Inverness and Homosassa Springs are all mentioned in a guide called Where to Retire in Florida, published this year by a retired couple from North Carolina.

Richard and Betty Fox spent two years visiting 99 communities around the state that have reputations as being popular retirement destinations.

Richard Fox, a former bank vice president, gave Crystal River a ranking of three stars out of a possible five. Betty Fox thought the city merited just two stars.

The Foxes agreed on Inverness and Homosassa Springs, giving each community just two stars.

Several of their criticisms are not exactly new, but now are available to a national audience via bookstore chains.

The couple said Crystal River needs to get rid of its clutter of billboards on U.S. 19. They complained the public's view of Kings Bay was blocked by too many waterfront buildings.

"Good shopping (for a small town), utilities, a hospital, several good restaurants and a handful of nice housing developments are, unfortunately, all there is," they wrote.

"Despite a great location, some outstanding regional landmarks and a huge potential, it (Crystal River) still has a long way to go."

"I think those are all areas we realize we need to work on, not only in Crystal River but in Citrus County as a whole," said Sheree Monroe, executive director of the Nature Coast Chamber at Crystal River.

The city has a sign ordinance but only recently started enforcing its provisions on portable signs.

Chamber and city officials are moving toward setting up a waterfront park as part of downtown redevelopment. "We do get a lot of visitors to the chamber office who say, 'Where is the river?'

" Monroe said. "They don't know how close they are" from U.S. 19.

As for Inverness, the Foxes said the city makes an unremarkable impression and is distinguished only by Lake Tsala Apopka.

They lamented the "very limited sociocultural infrastructure," adding, "From the outside, it seems that Inverness may be best for local people who already have family, friends and an established way of life here."

Inverness Mayor Joyce Rogers said city leaders have put a priority on developing cultural amenities, including the renovation of the former Valerie Theater on Courthouse Square. She said the Old County Courthouse will house a museum after its restoration.

"Things are taking a long time to accomplish," Rogers said. "I hope they (the Foxes) come back in three or five years."

Of Homosassa Springs, James Fox wrote, "A good place to spend time in the great outdoors, but it lacks the ingredients for a well-rounded lifestyle. It takes rusticity a notch too far."

For each town, the Foxes included a detailed profile, including cost of living, crime rate and cultural amenities.

Most of the communities they liked best were larger or more urban, such as Sun City Center, Sarasota and Longboat Key.

An exception was Dade City, which drew five stars for its antique stores and small-town atmosphere.

Elsewhere on the Nature Coast, the guide gave New Port Richey and Brooksville three stars, while Zephyrhills got just two.

The book is published by Vacation Publications of Houston and costs $16.95.