A Sumter County commissioner who has taken campaign donations from a politically connected donor voted in favor of his request for a freight facility on State Road 44, despite neighbors’ objections.
The rezoning request from GOP political activist Carlos Beruff was unanimously approved by the commission in its meeting Tuesday night at Everglades Recreation Center.
Beruff, whose companies include Medallion Homes of Sarasota, has been the top donor to the campaign of Commissioner Roberta Ulrich.
The proposed Florida Turnpike extension makes the State Road 44/Interstate 75 area very desirable for transportation and distribution uses. The approved rezoning will allow a freight distribution center to be located at the site, which is currently pastureland.
Neighbors living on County Road 231 near the proposed freight facility went to the podium to state their objections to the truck traffic to be created by Beruff’s proposal.
“There are too many houses, too many families on that road,” said Levi Solomon, a member of Sumter County’s African American community which has steadfastly opposed the Florida Turnpike extension which will cut through Royal.
“The Turnpike extension is driving all of this. The people are saying we don’t want this,” Solomon said.
He and others who spoke out against Beruff’s freight facility drew several “Amens,” from supporters in the audience.
Ulrich, who was appointed earlier this year to the seat to which Gary Search was elected in 2020, did not comment on her vote for the facility.
However, Commissioner Doug Gilpin explained his vote.
“People who own land and property are able to do what they are zoned to do,” Gilpin said. “While I understand what people are saying, I also understand the property owner’s rights.”
In 2017, Beruff was appointed by then-Gov. Rick Scott to head the Florida Constitution Revision Commission, on which Villages Vice President Gary Lester also served. Beruff was a major donor to Scott’s campaigns.