Sunday, September 23, 2018
Transportation

Opponents turn out for presentation on Suncoast Parkway extension

LECANTO — On hold for the last six years due to the tanked economy, the reanimation of the Suncoast Parkway extension into Citrus County Thursday evening brought together old foes.

For nearly two decades, business leaders and government officials have lauded the toll road plan as a much-needed economic shot in the arm. But those voices were not heard Thursday evening during the public workshop and presentation by Florida Turnpike Enterprise at the Curtis Peterson Auditorium.

Instead, speakers were largely opponents of the roadway who for years have argued that the extension is not needed and has been routed in a way that will harm the environment and nearby neighborhoods.

More than 250 people came to examine the maps and drawings and voice their opinions of the Suncoast Parkway 2, which will connect the terminus of existing parkway at U.S. 98 with State Road 44 west of Lecanto by the end of the decade.

A recorded formal presentation, which lasted 25 minutes, told the decades-old story of the road plan. Citizens who didn't make it to the hearing or attended but didn't speak can still submit written comments by July 6 . But several speakers Thursday said they didn't think the Florida Turnpike Enterprise was interested in what they had to say.

"Our comments will make no difference,'' said Kathy Faye Chetoka, who fears her home will be taken in the project. "We need a shredder to put all of our comments in, not a box.''

She said she didn't trust state transportation officials and fears a potentially eight-lane mega-highway with "trucks, lots of trucks" running through Citrus County right over the land that provides water recharge for the county's important springs.

Water protection was also on the minds of representatives of the Homosassa Special Water District whose well field serves thousands of residents and is near the project's planned water retention ponds. Those ponds should be moved, said the district's attorney Carol Barice. The district, she said, "is concerned about the health, safety and welfare of its customers.''

Other residents urged a different route to avoid direct harm to the Sugarmill Woods subdivision, the Withlacoochee State Forest and the Etna Turpentine Camp ruins, which are on the National Register of Historic Places.

Former Citrus County Commissioner Joyce Valentino said a "no build" option should again be on the table. With all the growth management tools that were previously in place to protect the community now gone, she said "who will pay for the infrastructure and the environmental destruction you will have in the future? You. The taxpayers.''

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