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Proposed FDOT project upsets some Levy County leaders, residents

Published: Dec. 2, 2021 at 6:57 PM EST
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BRONSON, Fla. (WCJB) - Residents of one north central Florida county are raising concerns on a proposed Department of Transportation project.

Earlier this year, senate bill 100 eliminated most of the M-CORES toll road projects from Jefferson to Collier County but it left planning for the Northern Turnpike Extension intact.

There are four alternative routes being proposed. The option of most concern residents said, would connect the Florida turnpike’s northern terminus at Wildwood and go through the rural areas of Citrus, Levy, Marion and Sumter counties.

The ‘North A’ route would cut Levy County into two parts.

There are four alternative routes being proposed. The option of most concern residents say,...
There are four alternative routes being proposed. The option of most concern residents say, would connect the Florida turnpike's northern terminus at Wildwood and go through the rural areas of Citrus, Levy, Marion and Sumter counties.(1000 Friends of Florida)

“Moving forward, I know growth is happening and we must embrace it and we must plan for it but this isn’t what we need…Let’s come up with a plan that’s the least evasive on my citizens,” Levy County Commission Chair, John Meeks said.

Meeks said they were not prepared when the county finally learned about it less than a month ago. He said he’s not in favor of the proposal and hasn’t heard from any of his constituents who are.

“It would gobble up much of our valuable agricultural lands and divide farms,” he said.

In Bronson, Robbie Blake lives just a quarter mile away from the proposed road.

“People came here for the peace and tranquility, the springs, the rivers, and we’ve preserved that. There’s no need for this,” she said.

She fears that the sand hill cranes, woodpeckers, otters, gators, panthers, and all the other animals would loose their habitat, in addition to negative impacts on homes, businesses and more.

“It doesn’t make fiscal sense. It doesn’t make sense for the watershed and recharge of the aquifer here, and in the end, the animals. The incredibly rare animals that live right here on my property,” she said.

Ann-Marie Bortz said she and her husband live directly in the proposed path.

“I am disgusted and riddled with anxiety,” she wrote via e-mail.

Bortz and her spouse are both military veterans. She is a disabled veteran and has been diagnosed with PTSD.

She said she purchased her property in 2009 and built a home in 2011 to escape city life.

“The fact that the FDOT would knowingly destroy the homes of two veterans who served our county...is a slap in the face,” Bortz wrote.

Kathy Sokol Lane owns five acres in Dunnellon. She said she’s had companies try to claim eminent domain on her land in the past, and now she said she’s worried about a similar situation.

“I am tired of fighting keep my own land…I have been fighting for years against the government to keep my way of life, my hobbies and my five acres for my mental health,” Lane told us via text message.

An FDOT Spokesperson sent TV20 a statement on the project:

“The alternative corridors developed are based on consideration of meeting the project’s purpose and need, and minimization of potential impacts to the built and natural environment.”

They did tell us that the project is following the Alternative Corridor Evaluation process which is, “used to identify, evaluate, and eliminate alternative corridors on qualifying projects prior to the Project Development and Environment (PD&E) Study.”

They did not, however, answer our questions on how the environment would be protected, how much the project would cost, or if impacted residents would be compensated.

The PD&E Study must be submitted to the Governor, President of the Florida Senate, and Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives by December 31, 2022.

There are several opportunities for the public to meet with FDOT representative through this process.

December 7, 2021, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m., College of Central Florida, 15390 US-19, Chiefland, FL 32626. Register to attend in person or virtually.

December 9, 2021, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m., College of Central Florida, 3800 S. Lecanto Highway, Lecanto, FL 34461. (virtual option not available).

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