Facing the possibility of a turnpike extension bisecting their community, Royal residents Tuesday night identified the potential rezoning of a nearby farm to industrial as another threat.
Sumter County commissioners voted to transmit to the state a proposed comprehensive plan amendment that would allow the rezoning. After the state reviews the amendment, it will come back for final action.
About two dozen residents of Tillman’s Hammock, a rural community in the northwestern corner of the county, also came to the meeting to demand answers about the turnpike extension that could come through their community.
The potential industrial zoning involves 333 acres of pasture land on the east side of County Road 475 between State Road 44 and County Road 462.
The property is near Interstate 75 and not far from other commercial property, according to a staff report. About 25 acres of the land already is designated for industrial.
“This application has been submitted in response to high demand for industrial and heavy commercial properties near the I-75/SR 44 interchange area,” the report stated. “There is a shortage of available properties within this area. The local inventory of properties available for industrial use has been depleted.”
Royal residents said industrial businesses do not belong near their homes.
“There is a lot of opposition to the rezoning of this property,” said Beverly Steele. “It is inconsistent with what is happening in our community.”
Cliff Hughes said the industrial zoning will not benefit Royal residents and Levi Solomon said it will encroach on the community.
“With the turnpike extension and the zoning for this property, it will dissect Royal,” Solomon said. “Somewhere it has to stop.”
Commissioner Garry Breeden said commissioners always have allowed property owners to seek the highest and best use for their property. Transmittal of the plan amendment to the state was approved unanimously.
Flashing yellow no-build signs, Tillman’s Hammock residents asked commissioners to oppose any turnpike extension that would go through their community. They said up to three generations have lived on some of the farms.
Russell Thomas said there are other alternatives such as widening I-75 or co-locating the extension with the interstate highway.
“You don’t have to take anyone’s land,” he said.
David Wallace said widening I-75 is a better option.
“Fix the road that’s existing and expand it,” he said.
County Administrator Bradley Arnold said the state did not consult Sumter County or Wildwood before proposing preliminary alternative corridors for the turnpike expansion.
In a letter to a turnpike official, Arnold and Wildwood City Manager Jason McHugh wrote that their entities would support co-locating the extension with I-75 or a route west of CR 475.
Arnold encouraged the residents to contact turnpike officials and said it’s important “to open up more alternatives.”
Turnpike officials must submit a report to the governor and legislature on the status of the extension by the end of the year. More public hearings will be held next year and the extension is slated to be completed by the end of the decade.