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Citrus votes down luxury RV resort on lake

The Citrus County Commission voted unanimously late Tuesday to reject a proposed 499-unit RV park on Big Lake Spivey.

The meeting drew a standing-room-only crowd to the Citrus County Commission chambers.

Representatives of developer Century Realty Funds said the 207-acre site was perfect for the "Preservation Pointe" luxury motor coach resort.

But local environmental advocates and neighbors of the site criticized Century's plan, saying it would destroy the lake and disrupt the area.

After a nearly four-hour meeting, commissioners voted 5-0 to reject the plan.

"It's too big, it's too intense and it's incompatible for the area, which is basically residential," Commissioner Jim Fowler said shortly before the vote.

To break ground, the developer needed to change the property's zoning from coast lakes to recreational vehicle park. That required changes to the county's comprehensive plan and land development code.

County staffers recommended approval of the project.

In December, the Planning and Development Review Board voted 5-2 against the application.

Opponents of the project have been vocal at recent meetings. But supporters of the project were a visible presence at Tuesday night's meeting.

They pointed out that the developer has offered to pay more than $2-million to provide water and wastewater services to the development, including $500,000 for upgrades to the regional wastewater plant in Inverness.

"This is economic growth. It's going to help the businesses, and it's good for the government," said the Rev. Doug Alexander of the Church Without Walls in Inverness.

Many in the audience at the hearing clutched small square signs with bright orange lettering urging commissioners to "Vote Yes on Preservation Pointe."

Inverness attorney John Eden IV handed out the signs as people filed into the meeting room around 5 p.m. In the past week, Eden, who owns the property, said he e-mailed about 40 people to ask for their support of the project. He described the project's advantages and asked recipients to contact county commissioners and turn out for the meeting.

Many of the e-mail's initial recipients forwarded the message, he said. By Tuesday evening, Eden said he had received more than 100 e-mails in favor of the project and only a handful of messages from people who opposed it.

At Tuesday's meeting, commissioners approved a series of amendments to the county's comprehensive plan.

They include policy changes involving wetlands, springs protection, coastal high hazard areas, affordable housing and hurricane shelters.

One change would require developers of new mobile home parks to build hurricane shelters for their residents, create a hurricane mitigation fund and a new impact fee to pay for upgrades of public shelters.

Bill Turney, assistant executive director of the Florida Manufactured Housing Association, told commissioners the change would unfairly burden owners of mobile home parks and further undermine the availability of affordable housing in the county.