Citrus County to stop all construction in beleaguered Inverness development

iv 4 permit
'Staying the course has not gotten it done for these folks.'

Citrus County Commissioners continue to put the squeeze on those they say are creating the mess in Inverness Villages 4.

Commissioners voted 4-1 to stop all building activity in what’s known as IV 4 until April 15, placing 90 property owners with unfinished houses in a state of the unknown.

The move coincides with a moratorium Commissioners placed on new building permits in IV 4. Both the moratorium and stop-work order expire the same day, though Commissioners don’t have a plan beyond that.

Chairman Holly Davis is spearheading attempts to get the “nondeveloper,” Anton Van Usen, to sell vacant lots to the county for use as drainage.

IV 4 is a 400-home platted development with public roads that are not publicly maintained. The dirt streets turn to muck during rainstorms, and homeowners deal with flooded yards and garages.

“We’ve got to make progress,” Davis said.

Commissioners Diana Finegan, Jeff Kinnard and Ruthie Schlabach all expressed reservations about stopping homes under construction.

Kinnard, however, said the move is necessary.

“Staying the course has not gotten it done for these folks,” Kinnard said. “We continue to see homes constructed, eroding streets, and no help in sight.”

Residents attending Tuesday’s Commission meeting, many sporting black “IV 4” T-shirts, said that while they appreciated the efforts, the county should be doing more.

And one man, Steven Black, said he is having a house built and doesn’t want further delays.

“I’m paying on a piece of property that I can’t even live on,” he said. “It’s not fair. You’re going to create a financial burden to a lot of these people and probably bankrupt them. How fair is that?”

Davis’ response: “None of this is fair.”

Other state agencies are involved:

— The Department of Environmental Protection is suing companies associated with Van Usen that own property, construct homes or sell real estate in Inverness Villages 4, for discharge into wetlands without permits. It will ask a Judge in March for an injunction to stop all building activity.

— The Florida Wildlife Commission charged the two owners of Van Der Valk Construction with removing gopher tortoises without permits. The pair received probation and ordered to get the permits; Davis said she’s heard they are forcing customers to pay for the gopher permits.

— The county last month asked Attorney General Ashley Moody to get involved. Davis said she met with Moody’s Office in Tallahassee and learned the Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating Van Usen and Van Der Valk for scheming to defraud.

County officials hope the actions will force Van Usen into working with the county on providing land for drainage.

Davis said the initial $109,000 estimate of a special assessment for residents to pay for paved roads would drop to $47,000 if Van Usen donated the drainage lots.

Finegan supported the measure but said she couldn’t see how putting a stop on construction helped residents living there now.

“We keep stopping things, but I don’t see that it’s getting better,” she said. “I need to see the benefit of how it’s helping the majority of these people.”

Schlabach, who voted “no,” said: “These 90 people are being put through the ringer to get a house built.”

Mike Wright

Mike Wright is a former reporter with the Citrus County Chronicle, where he had covered county government and politics since 1987. Mike's skills as an investigative reporter earned him first-place awards in investigative writing. Mike also helped the Chronicle win the Frances Devore Award for Public Service in 2002.


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