Speaking to an audience of business owners and executives, County Commissioner Jim Fowler reiterated his support of the Suncoast Parkway extension, spoke about why he voted for a controversial condominium project and said county staffers were not capable of planning future roads.
Fowler, seeking re-election to a third term on the County Commission, was the guest speaker at Thursday's lunch meeting of the Homosassa Springs Chamber of Commerce. As in his speech last week at the Citrus County Chamber of Commerce, he established his pro-growth beliefs.
"Growth is not our enemy," Fowler said. "The refusal to prepare for growth is our enemy."
Responding to a question about the extension of the Suncoast Parkway through Citrus County, Fowler said, "I don't think there's anything that's going to stop it. The people that are against it either just moved here or, understandably, don't want it going through their neighborhood.
"But what those critics can't answer is what will happen if the road isn't built," Fowler said. "How are we going to avoid the congestion which has happened just to the south of us? The alternative is unthinkable."
Regarding the condominiums, Fowler said his vote to approve the controversial Halls River Retreat was based on his interpretation of the U.S. Constitution.
He said that when the developer changed the plans bringing the project into compliance with the local zoning laws, he was compelled by the Constitution to approve construction of the four-story time shares.
"You don't grant rights based on what the community wants," Fowler said. "That's what George Wallace tried to do in Alabama when blacks wanted to attend public schools."
When asked about local road construction, Fowler said he supports building more county roads. He said the Inverness Highlands needs extra exit roads to major highways.
"We haven't built a new local road in about 35 years," he said, referring to County Road 486.
But, Fowler said, the county's planning staff is not capable of determining future road building. Neither is the state Department of Transportation, he said.
"Just look at what DOT did at State Road 44 and County Road 490," he said. He has criticized the design for left-turn lanes that are too short.
Fowler said the job of planning new local roads would best be performed by hired consultants.
Republicans John Thrumston II and Joyce Valentino are also running for Fowler's District 4 seat. The district includes part of Inverness, Floral City and the southeastern part of the county, but commissioners are elected countywide.
The winner of the Republican primary would face Scott Adams, who is running as an independent candidate.