County begins long slog to revamp Land Development Code

Citrus, County, news, Florida, LDC, land, development code

Mark A. Green, Citrus County Growth Management DirectorThe Citrus County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) on Tuesday began the long slog to revamp the county's Land Development Code (LDC). 
Tuesday morning's 9 a.m. LDC was a more-or-less philosophical Genesis of things county commissioners believe need to be tweaked in the code. 
The current LDC was adopted 2012 and, according to Citrus County Growth Management Director Mark A. Green, is a "living document", and has been amended six times since 2012. The workshop was an opportunity for commissioners to voice their opinions about the LDC, as well an opportunity for members of the Planning and Development Commission, the public, the Citrus County Builders Association and other stakeholders, such as real estate management leaders and others. 
Among the issues on the to-do list before the commission by Green are:
* Sidewalks
* Fence Heights
* Temporary tents along county roadways
* Tree Preservation
* Impervious Surface Ratio
* Signage
Other areas the BOCC will need to look into include mixed-use development, planned unit development, rezoning for mixed use, waterfront development, vacant commercial properties, the community character preservation of areas like Homosassa and Floral City and uniformity of business facades. One topic that could be further debated is building up the area west of U.S. 19, which is in the Coastal High-Hazard Zone, and area set aside for limited development in previous years. Commissioners said they favored treating the zone differently by allowing development.
Commissioner Ron Kitchen Jr. said the traditional view has been that the government "thumb" was on that area. Commissioner Jeff Kinnard said that people should be allowed to develop there. For his part, Commissioner Brian Coleman said, "It doesn’t make sense to limit building a house or a business west of 19."
Commissioner Scott Carnahan agreed, adding that the latest weather technology can give the exact location of a storm and there would be plenty of time to evacuate. Further, Carnahan said, not allowing growth limits the county's ad valorem tax base. As for temporary use tents, Commissioner Kitchen said that many people have been opposed to the occasional "Massive Yard Sale" up and down U.S. 19.
Commissioner Kitchen also faced that tent debate when he was mayor of Crystal River. At that time, some businesses complained that it was unfair because the brick-and-mortar stores paid ad valorem taxes, but temporary tent businesses didn't. It is the same argument that Citrus County car businesses had used before a previous county commission to complain that out-of-county companies were selling cars out of tents at that time. Then-Mayor Kitchen also opposed those practices, as well.
On Tuesday, Commissioner Kitchen also said he thought the issue to debate before the county is property rights. The No. 1 issue is property values," Kitchen said. He said that he didnt think people want to see something like a quonset hut put up, but that the county needs standards.
Commissioner Jimmie T. Smith's view is that tent sales occur in areas with inadequate parking. Commissioner Coleman agreed, and called their proximity to the roadways "a huge safety concern."
Tied in with Tuesday's board discussion was what the future business climate might be, given that many major brand-name stores have closed, leaving parking spaces and a problem with impervious, paved surface areas, most recently of concern to the federal government. At the same time, many people have also done more shopping on the Internet. And it is interesting to note that Commissioner Kitchen said Kitchen said there’s a move back to cities or clustered communities, and that brick-and-mortar stores will be for those who want to live near them (Green called them "pocket neighborhoods."
During pubic comment, Gene Davis, a real estate development leader in the county, said "People want to come here. We just need to accommodate them when they get here" He said he would like BOCC to address building on the coastal high-hazard area.
Local business leader Dixie Hollins agreed, and added. "Some of the things we need to look at is we need to bring people into the county. Make it like you’re going "shopping," with people coming in as "customers," Hollins said. "The county should be like, 'let me help you.' Secondly, be more flexible in inspections. Just make it easy to go shopping." 
Commissioners have their work cut out for them in the coming months, and County Administrator Randy Oliver will develop future workshops for each element the commission will examine. Summing up the sense of Tuesday's meeting was commission chairman Scott Carnahan. 
"We need to have a vision for this county. We need to be friendly and open to those who invest in our community."