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The Villages
Friday, August 19, 2022

Vocal Florida Turnpike extension opponents kicked out of Sumter County Commission meeting

Opponents of a proposed extension of the Florida Turnpike pleaded with Sumter County commissioners Tuesday night to join other counties and endorse a no-build option.

About 50 people, including many residents of the Royal and Tillman’s Hammock neighborhoods in Wildwood and Oxford, came wearing green T-shirts with “No Build” on them. 

Those opposed to the Florida Turnpike Extension wore bright green T shirts at Tuesdays Sumter County Commission meeting at Everglades Recreation Center
Those opposed to the Florida Turnpike extension wore bright green T-shirts at Tuesday’s Sumter County Commission meeting at Everglades Recreation Center.

Two people were ejected from the meeting by County Chairman Craig Estep. A Miami man was asked to leave after he refused to stop talking and another man was told to leave after Estep became impatient with catcalls from the audience.

With four commission seats up for election in the August primary, the turnpike extension could become an issue and one candidate told the opponents he supports the no-build option. Several speakers threatened to replace commissioners who won’t endorse no-build.

Earlier this year, County Administrator Bradley Arnold and Wildwood City Manager Jason McHugh sent a joint letter to a turnpike official that said the extension should be located west of County Road 475 to protect the Royal area or co-located with Interstate 75 until it leaves Sumter County.

Other counties, however, have passed resolutions opposing the turnpike extension.

During the public forum portion of the meeting, speakers criticized commissioners for refusing to oppose the extension because it could anger state officials.

Estep, the only commissioner not up for election this year, defended that approach.

“We have to maintain a reputation between us and Tallahassee,” he said. “We need to have a relationship with them to operate. We don’t have to always agree.”

A parade of speakers asked commissioners to take a stand against the extension.

“People are against this turnpike extension,” said Levi Solomon of Royal. “It will destroy communities and it will destroy our way of life. The people are speaking and they are saying no deal.”

Casey Walker said the commissioners have a duty to residents, not state officials.

“You are not state representatives,” she said. “You are our representatives.”

Catherine Nichols said her ancestors have lived in Sumter County since 1846.

“Slowly, it’s being destroyed,” she said. “I can’t understand why after everyone has said no, you still want to do it.”

Cassandra Hughes said the commissioners lack the deep roots that several generations of many families have.

“You don’t have the blood, sweat and tears we have in this land,” she said.

Rick Stagg of Tillman’s Hammock asked commissioners to pass a resolution opposing the extension.

“Please represent us,” he said.

Laquinta Davis said people forced from their homes may not be able to afford to buy another one.

“This is opening the door for a lot of homeless people,” she said.

Jeffrey Bogue of Bushnell, one of three candidates running to succeed retiring Commissioner Garry Breeden, said he supported the no-build option even though he wouldn’t be directly affected by it.

“If it was coming through my small farm, I would be right where they are,” he said, gesturing to the crowd and adding that commissioners are supposed to “represent the people.”

Bogue faces Sharyl Anderson of Webster, Mary Rosetta French also of Webster and James Morris of Bushnell in the Aug. 23 Republican primary.

 

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