Commissioner explains vote in contentious Citrus County land-use case

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A Citrus County Commissioner is taking the unusual step of sending email letters to angry residents of a community to explain her vote on a heated land-use decision that didn’t go their way.

Commissioner Holly Davis, in an email headed, “An open letter to those whom I have disappointed you with my vote re: Meadowcrest,” describes why she was one of three votes to support an affordable-housing apartment complex within their community.

“I have been told by many in Meadowcrest, ‘You don’t listen!'” she wrote in an email sent to at least 40 people. “On the contrary, I did listen, very carefully; I just happen to disagree with the conclusions reached by the activists within the Meadowcrest community.”

Citrus County Commissioners voted 3-2 on July 26 to designate property on the Meadowcrest master plan from commercial to residential for a three-story, 179-unit apartment complex fronting the community along State Road 44.

Meadowcrest, a mixed-use development just east of Crystal River, was created by a Development of Regional Impact, or DRI, in the late 1980s. Any changes to the master plan need County Commission approval.

Green Mills LLC of Fort Lauderdale and the Meadowcrest developer, Gulf to Lakes Associates LLLP, said the apartment complex is a good fit.

County planning staffers supported the request. The Citrus County Planning and Development Commission, which reviewed the application, unanimously recommended against it.

In the weeks leading to the July 26 vote, Meadowcrest residents inundated county commissioners with emails asking them to deny the complex.

More than 100 people, sporting green “Save Our Village” T-shirts, crammed both the commission chambers and an overflow room during the three-hour public hearing.

Davis voted with Commissioners Scott Carnahan and Jeff Kinnard to support the apartments. Commissioners Ruthie Davis Schlabach and Chairman Ron Kitchen Jr. voted “no.”

More derisive emails to the three Commissioners followed the vote. In her blanket response, Davis reiterated she believes the project is compatible with the community and will provide much-needed workforce housing.

“The fact that it would be attainable/workforce housing is a bonus,” she wrote. “So let’s talk about the concerns that I heard from Meadowcrest residents that the complex will attract criminals and drug addicts: Nothing could be further from the truth. Residents are retirees or hard-working people who do not earn enough to compete with those of higher incomes in a market with too little housing inventory.

“It’s the opportunity for the single mom or dad working two jobs to pay a steep rent to now work only one job, spend more time with the kids, and help that next generation to thrive. It’s the minimum-wage certified nursing assistant who will be able to get to her job at your neighbor’s home and allow your neighbor to age in place. Or it might be you in 15 years when you need to downsize, and yet still wish to be near your Meadowcrest friends.”

She promised to keep close watch of the project.

“There are honorable developers and those who aren’t. I believe this one has proven to be a good neighbor who would live up to these stringent expectations,” she wrote.

Based on responses, Davis’ explanation swayed few minds.

“If you intended this letter to get people to like you and vote for you, you are an idiot,” one man wrote.

Another woman wrote:

“Thank you for taking the time to reply. It speaks volumes. With that being said — my husband and I will no longer support your place in our county leadership. We are not single-issue voters nor are we, as you said, ‘activists’ within the Meadowcrest community.”

And another: “You can twist it whatever way you want, however, you knew how the community as a whole felt about this project prior to your vote — so, duly noted.”

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