Chair’s remark causes angst in beleaguered Citrus County neighborhood

iv4 sign
'You bought something you shouldn't have bought.'

They’ve heard the whispers for months.

Why would anyone buy a house on a dirt road? Didn’t they do their homework? This is really their own fault.

And during a Citrus County Commission meeting, residents of Inverness Villages 4 heard it again.

“You bought something you shouldn’t have bought,” said Chair Holly Davis, whose district includes what’s known as IV 4, to a chorus of boos.

It’s been a year since Commissioners stopped building activity in IV 4 to force the majority landowner to sell empty lots for needed drainage ponds. The issue remains at a stalemate.

Davis has repeatedly said she believes Van Usen and the IV 4 building contractor, Van Der Valk Construction, committed fraud. Commissioners in February asked Attorney General Ashley Moody to investigate.

IV 4 was platted in the 1970s prior to Citrus County’s subdivision requirements. The dirt streets, which turn to muck after rainstorms that leave craters behind, are public roads but not publicly maintained.

Residents say they hold the county responsible for approving building permits in a neighborhood with no paved roads or drainage.

Karleen Sempert, a former deputy public works director in Flint, Michigan, said she specifically asked the county about flooding issues on the IV 4 street where she and her husband purchased their home. She was assured no issues existed.

“I’m tired of people saying you should have done your due diligence and done your research. I did,” she told Commissioners this week. “If you had told the truth, I would not have bought in IV 4.”

Commissioners are leaning toward an ordinance specific to Inverness Villages 4 that would require homeowners to receive stormwater permits for any work that added impervious surface, such as a concrete pad for a shed or generator.

Public Works Director Marcello Tavernari, who joined the county in November, said the permit would require an underground stormwater collection system. The idea, he said, is to prevent more rainwater from washing on the muddy streets.

“I have never seen a situation like this in over 20 years,” he said. “This is a very difficult situation to walk into. I feel bad for the residents. We put this language in place to not make the situation worse.”

Commissioners were divided whether to back the ordinance or not. They agreed to extend the building moratorium another two weeks but indicated an unwillingness to go beyond that, and instead will consider the ordinance later this month.

Along with the moratorium, the county conducted an engineering study to determine an MSBU — municipal services benefit unit — cost per lot for roads and drainage. Residents and Commissioners alike dismissed the result that showed a per-lot assessment of over $100,000.

Commissioners last month directed County Administrator Steve Howard to stop all work on 90 active new home permits in IV 4. The effort went nowhere when Howard learned he doesn’t have that authority.

Davis told residents their anger is misplaced.

“The county is an easy target,” she said. “You can come in here and yell at us, but we’re not the ones who did this to you.”

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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