Members of Fairway Christian and Hope Lutheran churches aren’t happy about losing a left turn lane to make way for adding other turn lanes on County Road 466 at Morse Boulevard, the community’s busiest intersection.
About a half dozen church representatives asked Sumter County commissioners Tuesday night to reconsider eliminating the turn lane that allows eastbound traffic on CR 466 to turn left into a shared church driveway.
But County Administrator Bradley Arnold said the intersection work already is under contract and the best option is for church members to make a U-turn farther east at Santa Fe Plaza.
Harry Harris, chairman of the Board of Elders at Fairway Christian, said he was surprised that a public hearing wasn’t held so church members could air their views.
“I was shocked to learn of this,” he said, adding that the decision to add turn lanes to CR 466 will have “unintended consequences” for the two churches.
Hope Lutheran member Wayne King said eliminating the left turn lane could cause a traffic bottleneck on Sundays when 350 people fill the church parking lot for each of two services.
County Chairman Garry Breeden asked Arnold if another solution could be found.
“We don’t want to solve one problem and create another,” he said.
But Arnold said it is late in the process to change plans because a construction contract has been approved for the other turn lanes and work is nearly ready to begin.
An $863,604 contract was awarded in January to CW Roberts Contracting Inc. of Wildwood to add a second turn lane to westbound traffic turning south from CR 466 and a right turn lane for drivers turning north on Morse Boulevard.
Arnold said county staff members met with church representatives in October to explain the plans and that the county is not obligated under Florida law to hold public hearings on these kinds of road projects.
“The U-turn option already exists,” he said, adding that the county will extend the lane for those waiting to make U-turns to accommodate more vehicles. “This project makes that entire intersection safer.”
Commissioner Doug Gilpin praised county employees for their work.
“It’s been an open and transparent process,” he said.
The issue is similar to one raised last summer by members of Grace Tabernacle Church at the other end of Morse Boulevard, along Warm Springs Avenue south of State Road 44.
In that case, the county added a median and eliminated left-turn access into the church driveway for southbound traffic.
Church members argued that left-turn access was needed for the safety of people coming to services.
Elimination of the left-turn access means church members must make a U-turn at traffic lights or use a roundabout farther south.