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Panel to county: Deny RV park plan

The county's planning board votes 6-1, expressing concern about how a major expansion at Nature's Resort would affect wetlands.

By CATHERINE E. SHOICHET
Published July 7, 2006


LECANTO - Expansion plans for an RV park on the Halls River are incomplete and raise significant environmental concerns, members of the county's planning board said Thursday.

Developer Ackley Investments II has proposed adding 191 RV lots and 106 tent sites to the Nature's Resort RV park, located on 61.4 acres north of Halls River Road and west of the Halls River.

The proposed changes, which require an amendment to the county's land development code, would bring the total number of RV sites at the park to 495.

The County Commission will have the final say. At Thursday's meeting, the Planning and Development Review Board gave the project a firm thumbs-down with a 6-1 vote.

"This is one of the most appalling projects to come before us," board member Marion Knudsen said.

But Inverness attorney Clark Stillwell, representing the developer, said the RV park's impact on the environment would be minimal.

"The whole project was designed to avoid major wetlands impacts," he said.

Members of the Homosassa River Alliance who spoke at Thursday's meeting told a different story.

"It's too big, too dense and located deep in the most environmentally sensitive area of our county," alliance director Ron Miller said.

Alliance vice president Jim Bitter said Homosassa's waterways can't take any more strain or pollution. And he urged board members to prepare for future projects that could threaten the environment.

"There's a long parade of these applications waiting to come before you," he said. "This is just the beginning."

County environmental planner Sue Farnsworth said she had serious concerns about wetlands on the property, but could not evaluate the environmental impact because the developer did not supply required information.

Stillwell said county staff members had not formally notified the developer that the application was incomplete. And he said the July Fourth holiday gave the developer little time to address concerns raised in Farnsworth's staff report, which was completed last week.

"Don't even go down that road," Planning and Development Review Board member Dwight Hooper said, noting that Stillwell should know the requirements for applications.

Ultimately the board voted 6-1 to recommend that the County Commission deny the developer's proposal. Board member James Kellner was the lone dissenter.

He said the board should have given the developer a chance to address problems with the proposal and report back to the Planning and Development Review Board.

But the majority of the board disagreed.

Stillwell said after Thursday's vote that the county was using "shifting standards" to review developments. He said staffers were asking for more specific plans than county codes require.

Ackley Investments II will either submit new plans to the county or amend the current plans once they make it onto the County Commission's agenda, Stillwell said.

In other news at Thursday's meeting, board members postponed a vote on an ordinance amendment that would change the rules for vegetative debris disposal at sand mine sites around the county.

Gaston Hall, representing the Citrus County Builders Association, said board members should consider more flexible rules because builders are running out of places to put material cleared from construction sites.

"It's going to become a nightmare problem really quickly," he said. "I don't know what the answer is, but the answer is not just ignoring it."

The amendment, crafted by McKean and Associates on behalf of R&B Fill in Lecanto, proposed allowing variances in setback requirements.

Several residents of the Frasure Hull Peach Orchard neighborhood, where homes are interspersed between large sand mines, said relaxing the rules would cause a decline in property values.

"I definitely don't want this," said Walter Horak, who lives on S Cauthen Point. "They just keep trying to abuse us and take advantage of the situation."

Planning board members said changing rules for vegetative debris disposal makes sense. They asked county staffers to propose possible changes after meeting with representatives from the sand mining industry and nearby residents.

Catherine E. Shoichet can be reached at cshoichet@sptimes.com or 860-7309.

[Last modified July 6, 2006, 22:53:02]


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