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Hearings set for tourist, garbage taxes

The County Commission prepared Tuesday to face more taxing times, so to speak.

Commissioners set two hearings for their Aug. 13 meeting to discuss proposals to raise the tourist tax 1 percent and keep the so-called "garbage tax" for at least another year.

The tourist tax, a 2 percent charge added to hotel rooms and other short-term accommodations, would be increased to 3 percent to further promote Citrus County as a tourist destination.

The landfill assessment _ $5 per home and 31 cents per cubic yard of trash for businesses _ would remain on the books, under the proposal, to pay for future landfill expansion.

Commissioners had talked last year about ending the assessment this year, once the county saved enough money to pay for the $5.9-million Phase 2 expansion of the Lecanto landfill.

But County Administrator Richard Wesch said commissioners should think about saving money now for the Phase 3 expansion, which will be needed in about five years.

"We're trying to maintain economic viability," Wesch said.

Eliminating the assessment could force the county to raise the $30 tipping fee, he said.

And as county officials remember from several years ago, Wesch said, "Sixty dollars a ton does not make us economically viable and will cause waste haulers to haul out of Citrus County."

Although commissioners would consider keeping the $5 landfill assessment for next fiscal year, starting Oct. 1, they may have to consider raising the fee the following year, Wesch added.

"In all likelihood, we will approach you for an increase next year," Wesch said. He didn't know exactly what the proposed fee would be, "but it will exceed $5."

In other commission news:

+ Neighbors oppose incinerator. Sporting shirts with the acronym SIN _ Stop the Incinerator Now _ several residents from Mini Farms and Shamrock Acres complained to commissioners about the wood-burning incinerator on Ed Gerrits' estate north of Crystal River.

"Breathing becomes very difficult," Mini Farms resident Martha Futscher said, describing the smoke and fumes from the incinerator a mile from her home. "Your throat and nose membranes burn."

Unless Gerrits moves the incinerator to property zoned for industrial use, the case will come before the county's Code Enforcement Board Aug. 21, Development Services director Gary Maidhof said. The incinerator sits on rural residential land and does not have development permits required by the county.

+ Potential mining lands go residential. Commissioners unanimously approved a request to rezone 440 acres on County Road 581, less than a mile north of the Hernando County line, from extractive to rural residential.

The property had never been mined, although its extractive zoning would have allowed that.

LaFarge North America, the construction materials company that owns the tract, plans to split its 60 acres west of CR 581 into 10-acre residential lots. LaFarge has no immediate plans to develop the remaining 380 acres east of CR 581.

+ Lecanto Sandhills rezoned. With the 1,857 acres now in state hands, commissioners agreed to rezone the Lecanto Sandhills from low density residential and office use to conservation.

The tract, on County Road 490 about a mile north of Rock Crusher Road, is part of the Annutteliga Hammock. Commissioners included a caveat, however: The conservation zoning should not prevent the state from building Suncoast Parkway 2 through the tract, if needed.

_ Bridget Hall Grumet can be reached at 860-7303 or bhallsptimes.com.

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