Inverness City Council unanimously motions to adopt No Build resolution against NTE

May 3, 2022

The Inverness City Council entertained presentations from both representatives of the Florida Turnpike Enterprise/Florida Department of Transportation and then the Sierra Club regarding the Northern Turnpike Extension during their regularly scheduled May 3rd Inverness City Council meeting. After the FDOT/FTE representatives provided vague updates on the changes in the project development process and timeline, the City Council invited Sierra Club to provide a formal presentation to make the case for the No Build option, representing the cause of the No Roads to Ruin Coalition. Michael McGrath, Organizing Representative for Sierra Club FL, provided the facts that FDOT/FTE had failed to provide to the City Council on the negative impacts that each of the Northern Turnpike Extension proposed routes would have on our SWFWMD managed lands, vulnerable springsheds, wildlife habitat, and recreational lands and trails that contribute to the rural quality of life found within the Nature Coast.

After these presentations were provided to the City Council, public comment was heard from more than a dozen concerned residents and local organizations, all of which were in full support of the No Build option. Dozens more in the audience silently displayed their support by holding No Build signs and wearing "Rural Florida Says No Toll Roads" magenta stickers and shirts. After the conclusion of public comment, the City Council engaged in discussion on how to proceed and came to the unanimous agreement of approving a motion directing the City Manager to draft a No Build resolution against all of the proposed routes currently being considered with the Northern Turnpike Extension. The City Council intends to adopt the No Build resolution at their next City Council meeting on Tuesday, May 17th.

A big thank you needs to go out to the tireless advocacy of residents and activists consistently showing up at previous City Council meetings over the last couple of months. The perseverance of those who came out convinced the Inverness City Council to join the other local governments in supporting the No Build option for ALL of the Northern Turnpike Extension proposed routes. The Inverness City Council will soon join the Levy BOCC, the Dunnellon City Council, the Inglis Town Commission, and Yankeetown Council in the ranks of local governments that have passed No Build resolution against the entirety of the Northern Turnpike Extension.

Partners and activists within the No Roads to Ruin Coalition will work with the City Manager to provide the Inverness City Council an Inverness-specific No Build resolution that captures and emulates the City Council's intent and concerns.

You can review the letter and maps that the Sierra Club provided to the City Council following the Florida Turnpike Enterprise/Florida Department of Transportation presentation here.

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Yankeetown Council Votes to Pass No Build Resolution Against the Turnpike Extension

May 2, 2022

The Yankeetown Council voted to pass their own “No Build” resolution vote on Monday, May 2 at 6:00 PM 4-1 after receiving overwhelming public support in a previous meeting in April. Thank you for all who showed up in Yankeetown to provide your support for the No Build option against the Northern Tunrpike Extension and to help protect the Nature Coast from a new toll road that would pave over everything that we hold dear and some of the last remants of Old Florida.

You can review the resolution that was adopted here (page 6)

Yankeetown joins the ranks of the Levy BOCC, Dunnellon City Council, and Inglis Town Commission as communities that have passed their own "No Build" resolutions against the Northern Turnpike Extension.


No Build Resolution Will Be On Inverness City Council Agenda | Tues. May 3rd

We’re at a critical stage in fighting the massive new toll road, and the urban sprawl and bulldozers that come with it, from upending Citrus County.

Join other members of the community tomorrow, May 3rd at 5:30 PM for the Inverness City Council meeting where you can speak out against the destructive proposed Northern Turnpike Extension. Share this Facebook event widely in your networks and with your neighbors! Link: https://fb.me/e/2dCwlUScv 

Our partners within the No Roads to Ruin Coalition are working to show up in force at tomorrow’s meeting so that the City Council hears our “No Build” message loud and clear and rejects this unnecessary, disastrous new highway. A “No Build” resolution from the Inverness City Council will make clear to the Florida Department of Transportation, Gov. Ron DeSantis, and other legislative leaders that Citrus residents are determined to keep the “Nature” in “Nature Coast” and reject this reckless plan.

No Roads to Ruin Coalition advocates will be on hand to provide brightly colored No Build mini-posters and magenta Rural Florida Says No Toll Roads stickers to wear so you don't even have to give public comments to be heard. Be sure to arrive early to get a good seat and to register for public comment.

Date: Tuesday, May 3rd
Time: 5:30 PM - 7:00 PM
Location: Inverness Government Center
Address: 212 W. Main Street Inverness, FL 34450
Share this Facebook event widely in your networks and with your neighbors.

Before the meeting, we encourage you to send a strong “No Build” message to all of the Inverness City Council Members asking them to pass a “No Build” resolution against the Northern Turnpike Extension. Raise your environmental, community, cultural and other concerns about the proposed routes. Ask them to support the No Build option and pass a resolution opposing it.

Here are the emails for sending your No Build message: bob.plaisted@inverness.gov, david.ryan@inverness.gov, jacquie.hepfer@inverness.gov, gene.davis@inverness.gov, cabot.mcbride@inverness.gov, linda.bega@inverness.gov, ewilliams@inverness-fl.gov, CityClerk@inverness.gov.

The Inverness City Councill needs to hear from residents that we don’t want our communities and quality of life to be paved over by new toll roads that would ruin our communities, lakes, wetlands, springs, estuaries, wildlife, and farmlands that all make the Nature Coast so iconic and appealing a place to live and visit.

Thanks for fighting to preserve the character of rural Florida,


No Roads to Ruin Sign Waving this Friday 5-6 pm in Crystal River at corner of SR 44 and US 19

Join us when we wave “No Build” signs in Crystal River as a kickoff to the Florida Springs Summit.  Let’s show rush-hour drivers just how much we oppose the Northern Turnpike Extension!

When: THIS FRIDAY, April 8, 5:00-6:00 pm 

Where: Corner of SR 44 and US 19 in Crystal River. Parking steps away CVS, Walgreens, WAWA, and nearby churches on NE 5th Street and Three Sisters Springs Trail.

Signs:  Bring your own hand-made signs to make it personal, or use the signs and banners we will have to share.

Tell your neighbors and bring a friend! 

But that’s not all!  It's a twofer!  Later that evening, the Florida Springs Summit at the Plantation on Crystal River will launch with an outdoor lawn screening of Oscar Corrall's film “Fellowship Of The Springs".  Those who participate in the sign-waving from 5-6 pm will get a free ticket (courtesy of Sierra Club Florida) to the pre-film sunset social (at 7:00 pm) and the film (at 8 pm).  All you’ll need to do is bring a chair or blanket to sit upon and warm clothing (it will be chilly).  

Have any questions? Call or email Michael McGrath at 386-341-4708 or michael.mcgrath@sierraclub.org

You can learn more about the Florida Springs Summit at: 

https://www.floridaspringscouncil.org/summit 

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Proposed extension to Florida turnpike puts Black community in jeopardy

Proposed extension to Florida turnpike puts Black community in jeopardy

A historic neighborhood is in the way of a proposed transportation development that would decimate the area

It is a story as old as time. A historic Black neighborhood is at risk of being decimated by eminent domain under the guise of redevelopment.

Royal—a neighborhood just west of Wildwood in Sumter County could be cut in half if the proposed Northern Turnpike Extension plan moves forward. The route would impact properties in Royal as well as other areas of Citrus, Levy, Marion, and Sumter counties, according to WFUT. There are currently four plans under consideration, all of which would impact Royal.

The neighborhood is one of the oldest Black neighborhoods in the state with more than 150 years of history and community. Now residents are afraid that they will not only lose their history but also lose their homes.

If the Florida Department of Transportation seizes homes connected to the project, it would be required to offer homeowners the value of their property—but residents are concerned that the money will still not be enough.

Eighty-year-old Phillip James said that he doesn’t have money to relocate and is afraid that any offer will still be lower than what residents deserve.

“They’re making a billion dollars, and they don’t give us chump change,” another Royal resident, Larry Lawson said.

Residents gathered this week at New Life Center Ministries. The report notes that most of the people there were advocating for a “no-build” option which would be against all four potential routes of the development.

A “no-build” vote by local communities does not completely remove the possibility of continuing the project. However, it is considered by the Florida Department of Transportation. Residents have been pushing for an extension of the Florida Turnpike—which is needed to lessen traffic on Interstate 75, that would not come through Royal citing, “the adverse impact on the historic African-American community.”

One of the four proposals would split one family in two. Levi, 67, and Willard, 57, live near each other on County Road 23 but if the development happens, the brothers will be separated from their 90-year-old mother, and two of their aunts, 97 and 100, who live on the other side of the road.

“There has to be another alternative,” Levi Solomon said. “You don’t break a community like ours to put in a road.”

The Wildwood community is more than 23% Black and 66% white—the construction would disproportionately affect the Black community. “From what I see, they’re trying to move the Black neighborhood out,” Lawson said. “I’m not with it.”

As previously reported by theGrio, a proposed $450 million bridge development would cut through a different historic Black community near Fort Lauderdale.

Sistrunk is Fort Lauderdale’s oldest Black community, one comprised of working families, mom-and-pop small businesses, historic churches, and landmarks. The neighborhood is amid ongoing redevelopment which would be halted if the bridge is built.


The Northern Turnpike Extension Would Sever Connectivity for the FL Wildlife Corridor

The map says it all. Below you will see the four proposed routes for the Northern Turnpike Extension and lands that have been identified as part of the Florida Wildlife Corridor. It should be noted that each of the proposed routes would bisect taxpayer-funded conservation lands (e.g. the lands shaded in light green "Florida Managed Lands (2021)) while also paving over the yet to be protected lands that have been identified as strategic and critical importance for realizing the vision of the Florida Wildlife Corridor for landscape-scale conservation (e.g. the lands shaded in dark green). Wherever the NTE is built, it will act as a catalyst for development bringing sprawl that encroaches upon the Florida Wildlife Corridor and permanently severs habitat connectivity for wildlife.

Jennifer Marshall, Director at the Office of Environmental Management for FDOT, told the Panther Recovery Implementation Team (PRIT)-Transportation SubTeam during a recent meeting that the Florida Wildlife Corridor layer has been added as part of FDOT's environmental screening process for proposed projects. If FDOT wants to avoid the Florida Wildlife Corridor it needs to choose the “No Build” option.


Potential Florida turnpike extension risks historic Black community

Potential Florida turnpike extension risks historic Black community

By 

Read the original WUFT article here.

The grove of trees where Phillip James was born is just a few yards from where he sits now: the front lawn of the Wildwood house he’s called home on and off for 80 years.

The story of the community in front of him — Royal, a neighborhood just west of Wildwood in Sumter County — is almost twice as old as he is. Royal, one of the oldest Black communities in the state, houses over 150 years of history.

That community may be halved by potential construction on the Florida Turnpike. The Northern Turnpike Extension, a proposed project that would expand the road, could run through Royal, among other areas of Citrus, Levy, Marion and Sumter counties.

A sign stands in Royal Park, part of a neighborhood that may be affected by the turnpike extension
The community of Royal is marked by Royal Park, where the historic Royal School used to stand. (Heather Bushman/WUFT News)

James, 80, is opposed to the turnpike, which would impact properties near County Road 462. His house on County Road 235 is in the path of all four potential routes.

James, who retired from his job in carpet manufacturing before moving back to Royal, said he worries about where he’ll go if his home is taken by the turnpike.

“I ain’t got no money like I used to,” he said.

James isn’t alone in his concerns. Royal residents like Larry Lawson, 58, fear financially for not just the potential loss of their homes but also the lack of compensation.

When the Florida Department of Transportation acquires a property for public use, it is required under eminent domain law to offer the owners an amount equal to the estimated value of the property. But Lawson feels the department’s gain far outweighs any money he’d receive for his house.

“They’re making a billion dollars, and they don’t give us chump change,” he said.

Community members and local leaders feel similarly, and they continue to rally against the extension. Despite potential traffic relief on Interstate 75 and easier access to neighboring regions, Royal residents have made their opposition clear.

They gathered on Feb. 28 at New Life Center Ministries, located at 9707 County Road 229, to speak with officials from FDOT and voice their opinions on the turnpike. Most speakers were against the construction and called for a “no build” option, which would scrap all project plans.

Local governments in places like Levy County have passed no build resolutions, which implore FDOT to choose to shelve the project. Though not legally binding, the resolutions indicate the community’s position on the potential construction, which the extension’s project manager William Burke said FDOT takes into consideration.

In Wildwood, officials have called for alternative routes that avoid Royal. The city and the Sumter County Board of Commissioners sent a joint letter to FDOT pushing for a modified plan to “reduce the adverse impact on the historic African-American community.”

Royal represents almost two centuries of history, and the community that stands today is close-knit. Neighbors often gather for barbecues or bonfires, cars honk in recognition when they pass through the dusty roads and friends spend days chatting in lawn chairs.

A group gathers in Royal, a neighborhood that may be affected by the turnpike extension
Pictured from left to right, John Dunlap, 58, Larry Lawson, 58, Dorthea Jackson, 80, and Angela Solomon, 60, often gather in Jackson’s yard to catch up. Like them, many Royal residents grew up together and have lived here their entire lives. (Heather Bushman/WUFT News)

Wildwood’s population is 23.3% Black, a fraction of the 66% white population. Lawson feels the construction will disproportionately hurt Black residents.

“From what I see, they’re trying to move the Black neighborhood out,” Lawson said. “I’m not with it.”

As it stands, each of the routes would run through Royal — splitting not just friends and neighbors but also families.

Brothers Levi and Willard Solomon live a few houses down from each other on County Road 231, and they have other relatives who also live in Royal. The Solomons are just one of several families who have stayed together in Royal for generations.

If the construction plans continue, Levi, 67, and Willard, 57, will be separated from their mother, 90, and two of their aunts, 97 and 100. The extension would split Royal in two, leaving the Solomons scattered on either side.

The extension is still in its early stages. The Project Development and Environment Study, which evaluates the potential impacts to affected areas, will not conclude until spring of next year. Even then, FDOT would still need to choose a route, if any, and prepare for construction.

But in places like Royal, residents are already bracing for impact and calling for a change of plans. Locals like Levi said the community culture is too rich for the routes to run through it.

“There has to be another alternative,” he said. “You don’t break a community like ours to put in a road.”


LTE: No build is lone option for turnpike extension

Read the LTE on the Chronicle's website here.

The turnpike may not be coming, there is a “No Build Alternative” on the table. We must all be involved.

FDOT is proposing four routes for a Northern Turnpike Extension; two routes directly impact Citrus County and would plow through wetlands, homes, businesses and historic towns, two routes skirt past us going over Half Moon WMD into Marion and Levy counties.

However, there is another option on the table, and that is the No Build Alternative. The No Build Alternative is what over 3,000 Citrus County residents who signed a Citrus County Petition in opposition, are fighting for.

Additionally, over 200 residents showed up in opposition to the Northern Turnpike Extension at the Feb. 22 BOCC meeting, of those 200-plus people, over 95% were Citrus County residents, and 99% were opposed to the Northern Turnpike Extension.

I know this because I was at the Courthouse entrance asking them where they were from, and if they'd like a “no build” sign and sticker to show resistance. The Chronicle states in articles and opinion pieces that many of the 200-plus people were from other counties, which is false.

The Chronicle also wrote in its opinion piece about the lone man, Art Jones, the 1% who spoke in favor of one of the routes coming through Citrus at that Feb. 22 BOCC meeting. They called him a local, he actually lives in Marion County, but for some reason wants the toll road to go through Citrus. No Build Alternative is an option for FDOT and that is the option I, as a Citrus County resident, am fighting and preparing for alongside thousands of other Citrus County residents.

The Turnpike may not be coming, we must all be involved. The BOCC will host a Public Workshop on the Northern Turnpike Extension at 9 a.m. May 24, at the Courthouse, Room 110, 110 N. Apopka Ave. Inverness.

I suggest we all be there and be involved.

Jodi Brantley

Inverness


LTE: Community shouldn’t support runaway growth

Read the LTE on the Chronicle's website here.

The backlash against the Northern Turnpike Extension isn’t about not accepting change, it is about protecting a way of life, our environment and our water supply. All of the proposed routes will dramatically and irreversibly affect it all.

Growth has been steady for years and it’s a no brainer that the Suncoast 2 is only going to increase that growth. The turnpike will dramatically accelerate that growth creating urban sprawl and turn Citrus County and the Nature Coast into another Orlando Metro.

The Chronicle keeps referring to those who spoke against the Turnpike as “protestors” and non-county residents. From the sign in sheet by the Sierra Club: Citrus County: 63; affected counties: 15; Alachua: 1 and Blank: 1 for a total of 80.

These people were concerned citizens there to communicate their concerns about the Turnpike with the County Commission.

Make no mistake; what the governments of Levy, Marion and Citrus counties and the towns of Dunnellon, Chiefland and Inverness decide will not only affect the communities and the people this road will actually touch, but the surrounding areas as well. The road will take homes from people along the route and farms along the route, often owned by generations, will either be taken or divided.

Remember, in 1999 a similar project was suspended due to lack of volume and support from local governments. FDOT Raymond Ashe: “Even with a higher traffic volume, the lack of local support alone would have killed the project.” We can do this!

Another Chronicle article states: “The new road will be funded entirely with toll revenues”. FDOT has an abysmal track record in projections for toll collections. The Suncoast 1 which opened in 2001 was projected to make $150 million by 2014 and in 2019 (18 years later) made only $29 million.

“Initial projections, which tend to be the ones that are the least accurate, get the project green-lighted. To the DOT, those projections are used ‘to judge general feasibility, need and interest,’” Florida Turnpike Enterprise division spokeswoman Christa Deason explained in an article by Craig Pittman.

In my opinion, substitute gas-lighted instead of green-lighted!

The bigger question: Why do our communities have to bear the burden of relieving traffic on Interstate 4 and Interstate 75. Those communities are the ones who supported the runaway growth, now they should live with it.

By the way, I've lived at this address since 1986.

Sally M. McDavid

Lecanto


Inverness Residents Showed up, let their City Council know they want NO BUILD!

3/16/22

Thank you for all of the Inverness and Citrus residents who came to speak up to protect their communities, lakes, rivers, and rural quality of life from the Northern Turnpike Extension! While the #RoadstoRuin weren't technically even on the agenda, we still packed the chamber showing the Inverness City Council that we are watching and that we expect decisive action from them in the coming weeks to send a clear message to FDOT and the FL Turnpike Enterprise to reject this toll road proposal. More than 35 people came out adorned with magenta Rural Florida Says No Toll Road Stickers and holding No Build signs while seated in the audience. During the “OPEN TO THE PUBLIC” section of the agenda more than 10 public comments were provided on this topic each asking for the No Build option to be pursued. As impacted stakeholders within the NTE study area, local governments' formal comments carry incredible weight with FDOT and Inverness can send a crystal clear message at their next Council meeting by passing a No Build resolution.

Again, thank you all who took the time to show up and provide their public comments!

You can read the Chronicle's coverage of the meeting here

Excerpt: 

“More pavement is not the answer,” said Dan Hilliard, president of Withlacoochee Aquatic Restoration.

New roads are not needed for economic growth in Citrus County and the county already has four north-bound corridors, he said. If the FDOT is bent on allowing more traffic, the agency can add lanes to existing roads, Hilliard told the council.

Maxine Connor, Sierra Club Florida Citrus County conservation chairwoman, said that a turnpike extension through the county would have a “devastating impact” and there was no evidence that the extension was needed.

Mike McGrath, a Tampa resident who came to speak, said that a council resolution asking that nothing be built “would carry weight.”

McGrath said that extending the toll road is an idea born in Tallahassee rather than local communities and their elected officials.

Many of those who spoke warned that a turnpike extension would not ease traffic, but rather attract more unwanted development and worsen traffic problems.

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