State Road 200 development advances

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Florida Highlands area residents protest

By Jim Clark

The mammoth new subdivision planned for State Road 200 just north of the Citrus County line has cleared its first hurdle with the County Commission.

Despite a barrage of complaints from the floor and an 80-person petition, all protesting the proposal, commissioners voted 4-0 to let the developers of the 5,400 single-family unit site, plus multi-family, independent living and assisted living facilities, advance the project to state officials for review from various agencies. Commissioner Michelle Stone did not attend.

Another hearing is tentatively scheduled for July 18, at which time a decision from the state is expected.

Florida Highlands provided the most objectors, and their main concern was water. There were questions and complaints about how the new development, which would feature a shopping center and two golf courses with separate clubhouses, would affect the water table and wells in the Highlands. Despite assurances that the effects would be minimal, the audience was not convinced.

Comments from speakers used words such as disaster when referring to environmental impact.

There were also concerns voiced about an area to the south known as Drake ranch, where speakers said a lot of hunting goes on. The developers, represented by attorney Steven Gray, said negotiations with the Drake family are in progress. The Drake ranch borders the south part of the new development, and there was discussion of a berm, fencing and a buffer.

The effect on springs, some of which are in Citrus County across the Withlacoochee River, were questioned.

There was also discussion of traffic on State Road 200. The Florida Department of Transportation recently held a meeting to show a plan for widening 200 from County Road 484 to the bridge over the river. Developers say the buildout of the development will be slow at first, so even though the road won’t be finished when the project starts, the effect on 200 traffic would be gradual as the highway is widened,

Those who objected pointed out that widening plans stop at the bridge, which is old and narrow.

At the July meeting, commissioners said they would expect more detailed plans of the planned unit development (PUD).