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Water Star Gold Award
Citrus County’s First Florida Water StarSM Home: Heritage in Hernando
By Audrey Durr, Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ (FFL) Program Coordinator
In January, the model home at Heritage in Hernando was recognized as Citrus County’s first Florida Water StarSM (FWS) home. FWS is a voluntary certification program for builders and developers, which is designed to increase water efficiency in landscapes, irrigation systems and indoors. The Southwest Florida Water Management District is encouraging good water stewardship to the building industry by offering this recognition program that focuses on water efficiency and water quality protection.
An FWS home incorporates best practices and products relating to the irrigation system, landscape, and appliances and plumbing fixtures. Features of the FWS program include:
• Requires micro-irrigation and mulch in plant beds.
• Limits high-volume irrigation system to 50 percent of planted landscape area.
• Requires high-performance, water-conserving appliances and fixtures.
• Requires points related to water quality issues for homes built near water bodies.
• Requires landscapes for the right plant in the right place.
Heritage in Hernando is committed to building water- and energy-efficient “green” homes and plans to build all future homes to FWS standards. Heritage has also received the 2010 AURORA Award for “Best Natural Gas Residential Development,” a 2010 “Exceptional Energy Award” from Florida Public Utilities, ENERGY STAR® certification, Florida Green Building Coalition certification and recognition as a “Florida-Friendly Yard” through the University of Florida/IFAS Extension.
SWFWMD staff and Citrus County FFL staff have been working with Heritage in Hernando since August 2010 to assist in the FWS certification and Florida-Friendly Yard recognition process.
The lawn is Argentine bahiagrass instead of St. Augustinegrass because of bahiagrass’ superior drought tolerance and pest resistance, as well as lower fertilization requirements. Once established, the bahiagrass doesn’t require irrigation except during extended drought. Chinch bugs do not affect bahiagrass; its only major pest is the mole cricket, which can be controlled naturally by planting larraflower and partridge pea to attract a beneficial wasp that kills mole crickets.
Argentine bahiagrass was used instead of Pensacola bahiagrass because Argentine produces fewer seed heads and has a darker color, denser growth and wider leaf blades.
Drought-tolerant, low-maintenance native and exotic plants were used in the mulched beds, including loropetalum, liriope, Muhly grass, flax lily, Schilling’s dwarf holly, yew and ‘Firepower’ nandina (a noninvasive variety). Visit www.FloridaYards.org to learn more about hundreds of Florida-friendly plants and to use the interactive plant database to select plants suited to your yard.
Citrus County UF/IFAS Extension’s Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ program is a free public education program that is funded jointly by the Citrus County Board of County Commissioners and the Coastal Rivers and Withlacoochee River basin boards of the Southwest Florida Water Management District. For more information, call 352-527-5700 or visit http://citrus.ifas.ufl.edu and www.SolutionsForYourLife.com.
All programs and related activities sponsored for, or assisted by, the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences are open to all persons without discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations, genetic information and veteran status as protected under the Vietnam Era Veterans' Readjustment Assistance Act.
Builder leaves solid foundation
By Jim Hunter
Courtesty of Citrus County Chronicle 5-18-2008
A dean of the local building industry has decided that after a 38-year career, it's time to back away from the daily rigors of building homes.
Builder George E. Rusaw, who has a long list of awards and distinctions from his industry, will continue to own and operate the family business, BGRusaw Inc./Rusaw Homes, but he said he's retiring from the daily activities and home building at the end of the month.
Rusaw, who has a reputation for custom, upscale homes, said the new home market, which is just eking along in the current economic downturn, helped make his decision and enable him to wrap up his last homes. Though the market will come back to normal levels, he said, the current circumstances made it a good time for him to step back.
Rusaw said he may be retiring from active building, but don't expect to see him fade away in a complacent, glowing sunset of retirement. First, he's not going anywhere. He loves the county, he said and has always intended to retire here.
Now that he won't have a personal interest in the home building market, Rusaw feels that he can speak up more about county issues and not run the risk of someone trying to dismiss him as being self-serving.
"I am very, very interested and concerned about what's going on in our county," he said. "I think I have a lot to say. I don't like what's happening. I intend to be heard from a lot more."
It's not like he has not had an influence on the county already, both as a local business leader in the building industry and in the planning and implementation of growth management, not to mention the 2,200 homes he built here.
In addition to founding BG/Rusaw Inc./Rusaw Homes in 1976, Rusaw was appointed by the county commission to serve on committees that developed elements of the Citrus County Comprehensive Growth Management Plan. The commission appointed him to serve as vice-chairman of the Blue Ribbon Committee for Infrastructure Financing, and he served on the original Citrus County Planning Commission, which became the Planning and Development Review Board, for 12 years.
During those times, particularly in the early 1980s, he said, he and other business representatives worked with citizen members of the environmental community like Hank and Miriam Cohen, David Walker, Helen Spivey, Charles Miko, Robert Schulties and others to come up with an acceptable plan that allowed for controlled growth while protecting the environment. He said that group worked with respect for each other toward compromises that laid the groundwork for today's comp plan.
On the business side, he was also a co-founder of the Citrus County Builders Association and served as its first president. He served in that role in three other terms and worked on many of its committees, such as the Governmental Affairs Committee. He also served on the boards of the Florida Home Builders Association and the National Association of Home Builders, as well as other industry organizations and was not only the county Builder of the Year four times, but the Builder of the Decade in 1990 and the Florida Builder of the Year, 1993.
In addition, he was a founder, organizer and shareholder of Citrus National Bank, for which he served as president and CEO, as well as chairman of the board before the bank was sold to South Trust. He was also appointed to the board of directors of that bank.
Looking back on lengthy career
Rusaw said that when he looks back on his career, he is amazed at the changes in the industry. His father and uncle, who started the family building business in Holiday in 1956, simply concentrated on building good homes, one after another.
It's a lot more complicated than that nowadays, Rusaw said, not to mention that the cost of just getting to the point of breaking ground for a new home could pay for a new house from that earlier era.
Building a good home for someone was and is a noble business, he said, something he has tried to instill in all who have worked with him through the years. At the core, you have to build a good home like his father and uncle did and then stand behind it, he said, but there is a lot more to it now than there was then.
"Today, you have to be a lot better at it," he said.
That's because there are so many pressures and requirements a builder has to deal with in relation to issues such as zoning, planning and land use; financing; permitting requirements from numerous agencies; state and local building regulations; marketing and competitive challenges; labor and materials availability and costs; and taxes like impact fees that cut into slimmer and slimmer margins. Then there are the ups and downs of the market.
That's not to mention the political issues abounding in a given county and/or city. This involves dealing with elected officials, planning and permitting officials, citizens who want to slow or stop growth, environmental groups and homeowner groups.
"You're kind of in the fish bowl," Rusaw said. "It's easy to feel overwhelmed and picked on."
Then add the new technologies for energy, heating and cooling, septic systems and so forth, not to mention factors like windstorm engineering. The builder has to master not only the traditional gravity loads of a house in Florida but uplift forces, positive and negative pressure and negative loads.
One of the last things Rusaw did was to get into the green building business, or building with energy efficient materials and in environmental friendly fashion, which he said will become the trend in home building in the coming years.
But with all that today for a contractor to contend with, it's a high pressure business, he said, and being the kind of person who demanded quality and constantly pushed and pushed, he said, it can be quite an intense business if you are building more than just a few homes.
The builder, the man
Rusaw's longtime friend and business associate, real estate broker Jim Crosley, said not only did Rusaw always demand quality, but he built his business on it. Even in resales, Crosley noted, real estate listing will state right off, "a Rusaw home," which says it's a custom, quality home.
It was an extension of the man, Crosley said, who, when asked for adjectives to describe Rusaw as a person and businessman, said after thinking a moment: "Unique, of integrity, topnotch, honest, very loyal."
"He wanted nothing but quality," Crosley said, adding that the Nation Homeowners Warranty Association awarded Rusaw's "Customer Care" program as the finest one it had ever seen when it gave him it's product excellence award in 1994.
Crosley worked with Rusaw since 1981, and he said it was always a pleasure.
"He's got a great sense of humor. He is a very intelligent man. He is an avid reader, but he is not a stuffed shirt," Crosley said.
As for retirement Crosley said of Rusaw: "He is very anxious to be involved with the growth of the county. He's insightful. He thinks things through. He's a good asset to this community, a great friend of the community - and he will be for a good time into the future. I think you are going to see a lot of action from him."
Mike Moberley, president of the CCBA, said today's organization is part of the legacy Rusaw and CCBA co-founder Jim Blackshear have left in the county.
"George has really been a pillar of the building community," Moberley said. "I've never heard a bad thing said about him. George is a stellar guy. He is a very articulate guy, very intelligent. He ran his business the same way."
Rusaw said when he looks back, the county probably made some mistakes in planning for the future and now is living with them in the economic downturn. For one thing, he said, "Our economy stands on a monopole. We limited ourselves to a mailbox economy, a service economy. We were saved by Progress Energy."
Rusaw thinks that situation, growth, and impact fees need to be high on the public agenda. The county needs to do some honest, realistic economic analysis to consider changes to get it on a healthier economic basis, he said, and he thinks he can help in that dialog.
From the permitting side of the equation
Citrus County Development Services Director Gary Maidhof has worked with Rusaw from the government side for many years and said he suspected when he heard of Rusaw's retirement that he would become more active in community issues.
While they don't always agree about issues, Maidhof said, he has highest respect for Rusaw and both welcomed and looked forward to his involvement in county issues because of Rusaw's insight and knowledge. Also, Maidhof said, his experience and incisive thinking would be valuable on a number of county volunteer boards.
"He is well-spoken, he is always well-versed in the facts and he is diplomatic," Maidhof said. "And the man believes in Citrus County."
He noted Rusaw's involvement from the beginnings of the comp plan committees and said he expects Rusaw to be an influential person in the community regarding growth issues in the future.
Rusaw said he looks forward to that involvement and said he might even be available for some consulting assignments in retirement, though he added, "not on a grand scale, mind you."
In light of his plans to be active in the community, though, when asked if that might include consideration of running for elected office, he said with a slight smile, "No comment."
The business details of retirement
Rusaw said that as he steps back, he has agreed to license the use of the Rusaw Homes trade name to builder John Osborne, owner of Pinecrest Building Corp., and the use of the Rusaw Reality name to Crosley. Though permitted to use the Rusaw trademark and other intellectual properties like home plans, Crosley and Osborne will write contracts under their own names.
Rusaw said he felt he was leaving the reputation his company created for quality homes and service in good hands.
"They are both very, very good people," he said.
Rusaw said the 15-year warranty agreements and obligations on Rusaw homes will be met by Elite Home Restorations, owned by Bill Moeller. He said the last home under contract was just finished, which wraps up his active building career.