We applaud the members of the Lady Lake Commission who have expressed doubts about the feasibility of allowing a 7-Eleven gas station/minimart/car wash to be built at the extremely busy intersection of County Road 466 and Rolling Acres Road.
While we believe the entire commission eventually will put an end to this project that would turn a bad traffic situation into a nightmare of epic proportions, we would like to offer huge praise to Commissioner Dan Vincent for already making it clear that he is a “no” whenever the proposal comes up for a vote in front of the group.
Vincent said that continued delays in funding for improvements to Rolling Acres Road are a big part of his reason for opposing the proposed 7-Eleven. He added that he feels particularly burned after a 2016 vote he cast to allow the construction of a medical clinic on Rolling Acres Road not far from The Villages Elementary of Lady Lake. At the time, Lake County officials had hinted that the economic benefits of the new clinic could accelerate funding for improvements on Rolling Acres Road.
That was more than two years ago and nothing has happened yet. And today, the heavily traveled thoroughfare carries the designation of a “failing road.”
“Had I known what I know now, I wouldn’t have voted for it,” Vincent said.
To make matters worse, Vincent said he had a recent conversation that didn’t go so well with Lake County Commissioner Josh Blake, who represents Lady Lake, about getting the money from the county to improve the situation on Rolling Acres Road.
“Basically, he told me to ‘go soak it,’” said Vincent, who quickly added that the county seems to have no problem finding money for Clermont and Mount Dora.
Vincent, of Water Oak, said he’s had enough of Lady Lake getting the short end of the stick.
“We’re not going to sit back and let them hand out crumbs to us,” he said. “I want the whole loaf.”
If you’re not familiar with the 7-Eleven proposal in Lady Lake, the convenience store giant sent its lawyer to the Nov. 19 commission meeting to put on a dog-and-pony show – complete with a slick presentation – about the “modern” 7-Eleven that would be “attractive” and “inviting.”
Tara Tedrow, a senior associate at the Lowndes, Drosdick, Doster, Kantor & Reed law firm, which represents 7-Eleven, said the convenience store and its 16 fueling stations would encompass 3,486 square feet on 1.405 acres on the northwest corner of the intersection, north of Village of Palms and west of Recreation Plantation. It also would be located less than a mile from the new Wawa that’s going in at U.S. Hwy. 27/441 and CR 466.
Amazingly, Tedrow showed the commission numbers that made it appear as if the location of the 7-Eleven actually would help alleviate traffic at the oftentimes jam-packed intersection. A claim was even made that 67 percent of trees on the property would be saved. And Tedrow added that a 7-Eleven is a better fit than a restaurant because a gas station is not a “destination” and wouldn’t create additional traffic like an eatery would.
Please. We have to wonder if Tedrow has ever driven on Rolling Acres Road, or for that matter, if she even knows where it’s located. Her firm is based out of Orlando and we seriously doubt that Tedrow has ever spent time in that long, long line of traffic that sometimes backs up past Ro-Mac Lumber & Supply.
Because if she had sat in that frustrating quagmire of slow-moving vehicles, we’d find it hard to believe that she’d actually stand in front of a body of seasoned elected officials and spout such nonsense about a very large gas station/minimart/car wash being built on a busy corner and actually alleviating traffic.
Who came up with that nonsense in the first place? Are there hard numbers to back such a claim? Did Tedrow realize that she was speaking to a group of extremely dedicated commissioners? Or was she confused and thought they were a class of children at nearby Villages Elementary of Lady Lake?
Obviously, we’re being somewhat facetious here, but one has to wonder why anyone in their right frame of mind would make such a ridiculous argument. Clearly, the motivation to put the 7-Eleven at the busy intersection is completely money-driven. We get that. But is there any concern whatsoever for the area residents who would have to negotiate that intersection with vehicles trying to come and go from a gas station/minimart/car wash? We’re guessing not.
Luckily, other commissioners appear to feel the same as Vincent.
“It is a horrendous road,” said Commissioner Ruth Kussard. “There have been backups of cars (on County Road 466) all the way back to Atria (assisted living.)”
“This corner is a traffic hazard all day long. Now we’re going to have tanker trunks coming and going? That’s the big hang-up with me,” said Commissioner Tony Holden.
Mayor Jim Richards said he would personally prefer driving through The Villages rather than braving the intersection, known for its many accidents.
“I cannot in good conscience vote for a special exception knowing the condition of this intersection,” the mayor said.
Ahh, the accidents. The mayor brings up a very good point. That intersection is oftentimes like the Bermuda Triangle of roadways. Crashes are a common site there. And in one case, a father and son were even involved in accidents in the same spot several years apart.
Here’s a brief look at just some of the mayhem that’s gone on in the intersection:
- A three-vehicle crash that included a truck towing a Village Mover trailer took place in November when a 2016 Chevy Camaro traveling southbound on Rolling Acres Roads failed to properly make the turn onto CR 466.
- A teen driver who was traveling east on CR 466 pulled directly into the path of another vehicle while attempting to turn onto Rolling Acres. The 17-year-old’s father was ticketed in a similar crash in May 2013 in the same intersection.
- A two-car collision took place April 19 when a man driving a 2006 Ford Explorer pulled into the path of a 2012 Hyundai Accent while trying to turn left onto Rolling Acres Road.
- A Chevrolet pickup truck rear-ended a Kia Soul in the intersection in December 2017.
- A 2002 four-door Kia struck a 2014 Kia four-door sedan near the intersection in May 2017.
- A 2002 Toyota Tundra pickup attempting to make a left turn onto Rolling Acres Road collided with a 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe in April 2017.
- The front bumper of a 2003 Toyota Tacoma sideswiped the passenger side of a 2015 Toyota Corolla as its driver was turning right onto CR 466 from Rolling Acres Road in February 2017.
- A three-vehicle accident took place in February 2017 when a driver of a failed to stop and plowed into the back of a 2016 Kia Soul, which as then pushed into the rear-end of a 2017 Chrysler Pacifica.
- Two vehicles collided in the intersection in January 2017 at a time when the roadways were facing greater congestion due to construction of a new clinic on Rolling Acres Road.
- A 2002 four-door Buick collided with a 2007 BMW while attempting to make a left turn onto Rolling Acres Road from CR 466 in June 2016.
- A 60-year-old motorcyclist was seriously injured and his girlfriend died days later at Ocala Regional Medical Center after the Harley-Davidson tricycle they were riding on slammed into the back of a car at the stoplight in the intersection in May 2016.
- A five-vehicle collision took place in the intersection in June 2015. An ambulance transporting a patient from that crash scene was then rear-ended on U.S. Hwy. 27/441 and a tow truck responding to the accident also was involved in a wreck.
- A motorcycle was struck by a vehicle while sitting at the stoplight at the busy intersection in May 2015.
As we said earlier, we applaud Lady Lake commissioners for their initial skepticism about allowing a 7-Eleven to be built on the corner of such a busy intersection. Commissioners are likely to hear the continuation of lawyer Tedrow’s magic-beans-like presentation at the Dec. 17 meeting. But we’re quite confident they’ll rightly nip this project in the bud and hold off on allowing any such venture at the busy intersection until the day comes that the much-needed improvements finally are made on Rolling Acres Roads.