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County questions proposed condo complex

The development has drawn environmental concerns about the treatment of 4.8 acres of wetlands. Officials say it would violate the county's comprehensive growth plan.

By JOSH ZIMMER

Revised August 2, 2000

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 29, 2000


HOMOSASSA -- A property on the pristine Halls River may be a developer's dream, but Citrus County planners are balking at a proposed 69-unit condominium complex that would place a swimming pool on the upland and build the homes on sensitive wetlands.

A Palm Coast company named Allied International Holdings is applying for county permission to develop 11 acres that once were part of Nature's Resorts campground. However, the county community development department said the 11-building project would violate numerous sections of the county's comprehensive growth plan and is advising members of the Planning and Development Review Board to reject it when they meet Thursday. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. at the Lecanto Government Building, 3600 W Sovereign Path.

Instead of proposing to build on the uplands, where five dilapidated structures now exist, the developer wants to build in 4.8 acres of wetlands that are spread mostly along a 1,200-foot stretch of river. The comprehensive plan calls for wetlands to be protected from development, according to Chuck Dixon, who directs the county's community development division.

In addition, the plan does not meet setback regulations and would not comply with the county's manatee protection plan.

"It's mainly environmental concerns," Dixon said.

The proposal has caught the wary eyes of nearby residents, who live in neighborhoods characterized by single-family homes and trailers. The multiunit buildings are operated by bed-and-breakfasts and resorts.

The proposed condominiums would be 3 stories high, not including the parking areas underneath, Dixon said.

Jim Bitter, chairman of Save the Homosassa River Alliance Inc., said he has been getting phone calls about the proposal and said the development would damage important wetlands. One of the calls came from Riverhaven resident Clyde Hindman, who shares similar feelings.

"It's in the wrong place," said Hindman, who criticized the proposed housing density, saying it could complicate efforts to evacuate the area during a storm. "I've watched the water quality go down tremendously in just the last 15 years. We used to drink out of the river back then."

The units would surround a swimming pool and clubhouse on the grassy uplands, Dixon said. The plans also show 20 boat slips.

But the county staff's report lists 11 potential violations to policies and objectives laid out in the comprehensive plan. All counties are required to follow comprehensive plans, which are designed to protect the environment by dictating where development can occur.

"We would hope they would work with us to redesign the project," Dixon said. "We want them to eliminate the impact on wetlands."

The county staff also questions the developer's planned location for the complex's entrance.

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