On Aug. 3 another newspaper carried an interview on the Suncoast "Darkway" between Sierra Club attorney Lesley Blackner and SunTrust Bank of the Nature Coast's chairman and CEO James Kimbrough. Some of Mr. Kimbrough's statements were, shall we say, a bit on the stretched side, and I would like to tell your readers who may have read that article the "people's side."
Mr. Kimbrough says it's okay if his bank profits while he sits on the Florida Transportation Commission. (His son, Jimmy Kimbrough, controls his grandfather Alfred McKethan's family trust, MAK Family Partnership Ltd., which owns hundreds of acres throughout Hernando County, which also stands to profit from the "Darkway.")
The senior Kimbrough throws in an oft-used developer's trick to defeat the statement by Ms. Blackner that the "Suncoast Parkway will only encourage growth" by saying that "just in Citrus County alone there are 35,000 to 45,000 platted lots." (Real accuracy here, a 10,000 spread in the number of lots.) Well, as anyone knows who has dealt with Citrus County's growth management laws, there are platted lots and there are platted lots. Some are true platted developments. Some are large family farms or cattle ranches that were told "If you don't plat your farms for development now, you won't be able to later."
Many chose to plat their lands, mainly because the Citrus County Comprehensive Plan doesn't allow an owner to divide the family farm or ranch among their children unless they run paved roads to the parcelsand obtain variances and other very costly measurers. So they don't divide it.
Then when the owners of the family farm or ranch die, the holdings are so large they fall in a large tax bracket, and more often than not the children are forced to sell most, just to pay the taxes. It helps if it has been platted. It would really help if our Citrus County Commission would work a way that these children could keep the farms and ranches they grew up on.
Crystal River has another interesting platted situation. A developer back in the early days of barnstorming with an airplane divided up a very large swamp into 25-foot lots, then went up in an airplane (after proper advertising) and threw every other lot down to a joyous crowd of folks below. Of course the happy deed gatherers didn't realize two things. One, they had to buy another lot or two to have something big enough to build on, and two, all the lots were in a swamp.
Mr. Kimbrough also stated, "If the Parkway is not in place, the inter-county traffic is going to come to a standstill." Does he mean by "inter-county" that we are going to be melded into the megalopolis of Tampa/St. Petersburg without being able to say anything about it?
His final remark, "I'm being practical," adds that without the parkway U.S. 19 in Citrus County will inevitably become like it is now in Pasco County. I cannot imagine with all of Mr. Kimbrough's bank's holdings in Citrus County he doesn't know of the bypasses that Crystal River has put in, like Cutler Spur Boulevard and the street that goes from State Road 44 E to U.S. 19 at Fort Island Trail, bypassing U.S. 19's traffic at no charge. In Pasco County, if you want to go north or south, you have to come out and travel U.S. 19.
Kimbrough notes that Interstate 75 will only be able to go to six lanes. I find it absolutely amazing that someone who sits on the Florida Transportation Commission as an appointee of the governor does not know that widening of U.S. 41 from the poorly traveled Veterans Expressway toll road (the bottom of the Suncoast "Darkway") through Citrus County will parallel I-75, cutting off about 21 miles or more from the Tampa I-75 trip.
On the widened U.S. 41, one will be able to travel to Tampa in an almost straight line and it will be free. The "Darkway" is a tollway with personal car cost estimates of about $13 in tolls to go to Tampa, $26 round trip. I guess you could brown bag your lunch to cut expenses.
The "Darkway" is not the right way to go about preserving our beautiful rural area. It will be its death. Show me something that profits our beautiful environment and our chosen way of life, not one that profits banks and developers.
Do not be taken in by Mr. Kimbrough's spin. This is our special place and we have the right to keep it the way we want.