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The Villages
Thursday, June 16, 2022

Florida Turnpike Extension ‘No Build’ option is the only way to save Sumter County

Michael McGrath
Michael McGrath

On Tuesday, June 14, the Sumter County Board of Commissioners got an earful from close to 120 concerned voters adorned with bright pink “Rural Florida Says No Toll Roads” stickers, waving neon green “No Build” signs, and donning “#NoBuild No Turnpike Extension” T-shirts; a loud and clear sign that Sumter residents want no part of the proposed Northern Turnpike Extension. The Commission chamber was packed. All of the proposed routes would cleave through vulnerable communities and sensitive environmental lands in Sumter and beyond.

The Northern Turnpike Extension was not on the Commissioners’ agenda, but speakers took advantage of the public comment portion of the meeting to hit all of the reasons the Northern Turnpike Extension is a threat to their homes, quality of life, businesses, and the county’s natural resources. The crowd enthusiastically raised their “No Build” signs and applauded speakers for more than an hour in a show of collective determination to protect what remains of rural and historic Sumter and the broader Nature Coast region.

Multiple residents presented the Sumter Commission with a draft No Build resolution for their adoption as soon as possible to send a strong, clear message to the Florida Turnpike Enterprise, Florida Department of Transportation, and state leadership that they want nothing to do with this toll road proposal. Following the public comment, where opposition to the turnpike extension was unanimous, the Commissioners angered the crowd by stating their devotion to playing nice with Tallahassee.

“Only a small, but devastating, portion of the proposed road is in Sumter county before it heads into counties that clearly do not want it, so who are you supporting this for? You have made it clear that you are more concerned about not angering folks in Tallahassee than representing the people in this room. Not one person has said they want this toll road, so why are you not supporting the No Build option?” stated Wildwood resident Kayce Walker.

Levi Solomon of Royal added: “I am not impressed with our current Sumter Board of County Commissioners. They are not listening to the people. The people are speaking, and they are saying ‘No Build.’ Government for the people by the people.”

Tillman’s Hammock resident Michael Brooks said: “I don’t think our Commissioners are working for us, they are working for themselves. They need to leave the rural part of Florida alone, and protect the wild parts of Florida for the benefit of wildlife and its people.”

“As a fifth-generation Floridian, I’ve seen the detrimental effects of rampant development and urban sprawl to our state with Sumter being no exception. The time has come for Sumter residents to stand in solidarity against the Turnpike Extension,” stated Gay Lynn Light, a 23-year resident of Tillman’s Hammock.

“Speaking as a fourth-generation Sumter County resident, and lifelong Tillman’s Hammock resident, the Sumter County Commission needs to listen to the residents and adopt the No Build resolution that was presented to them tonight,” said Janet Thomas of Tillman’s Hammock.

Sumter County’s passage of a “No build” resolution would follow others already passed by the

Levy Board of County Commissioners, Dunnellon City Council, Inglis Town Commission, Yankeetown Council, and Inverness City Council; the Citrus Board of County Commissioners is poised to pass their own No Build resolution later this month.

Michael McGrath is with the Florida Chapter of the Sierra Club.

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