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Blue Grotto hopes for revitalization

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By Lou Elliott Jones

At last week's meeting of the Levy County Board of County Commissioners, Blue Grotto won approval of a land use change that may revitalize it.

 The commissioners voted 4-1 to approve a land use change for 9.9 acres of the 14-acre dive resort and RV park. Commissioner Danny Stevens of Williston cast the dissenting vote. 

 Stevens disagreed with the method the park's new owners were taking to accomplish their goal of putting cabins on the site. He said instead of a land use change from Urban Low Density Residential use to Commercial use they should consider a conditional use designation. Stevens also expressed concern that the road is not able to handle traffic. 

Bell said there is another road to the west of the property that can be used for access if necessary. 

Stevens said the county's forefathers who granted the location a special exception for zoning allowing the RV park felt a conditional change was the correct route. “A conditional use permit would allow us to mold and fit what we have in there,” Stevens said. 

Blue Grotto Property LLC, owner Dave Myler has purchased the site from Edward and Judy Paradiso, and wants to reestablish the spring as a diving and tourist destination. He said he also wants to use it in his ministry. 

Myler said he has three RVs on the property. “These guests would be diving at our site and other springs in the area and they would be using the restaurants and convenience stores,” Myler said. He said the property manager, Curt Huber, thinks three cabins would meet the needs for several years. He said later they could add more bringing the number of RVs to six which could house up to 48 people.

“We can have only so many divers in any given day on our site,” Myler said. 

One issue with the plans is how to handle sewerage. “The only issue is the sanitary and how that's going to be handled. We have the approval for the RVs. We have the approval to install and it may be that the small land use change may be necessary in order to do the septic,” Myler said. 

Myler and his consultant Clay Sweger of Eng, Denman & Associates, Inc., of Gainesville, said the land use change could help ally fears that the spring would be used for bottling water. 

Myler said, “They're not going to do that. They have to get a license for it. They're never going to get that. The way I'm developing it they're actually cementing (commercial) as its current use. That is exactly my only vision for that property.”

Sweger told the commissioners, “If you approve this, that takes the water bottling possibility off the table today. We thought that was a plus. By changing to commercial that will take the potential away.”

 Commissioner Mike Joyner of Morriston made the motion to approve the change, seconded by Commissioner Chad Johnson of Chiefland.