Once again, the Marion Board of County Commissioners failed to listen to the demands of residents and their constituents. Today, the Commissioners took no new action, and the weak letter that leaves the door open for Marion County to be paved over and that was signed by Zalak as approved on Dec. 21, stands.

The letter that the Marion Board of County Commissioners is sending to FDOT, the Governor, and Legislature fails to take a hard and assertive line to protect residents and farms in the pathway. There are other valuable and integral lands other than those located within Marion County’s Farmland Preservation Area that also need to be protected from being paved over. The wording of the letter is weak as it uses vague language such as “make every effort possible to avoid impact to existing developed residential subdivisions” but fails to ask for a “No Build” recommendation that would ensure that neither residents nor the environment would be impacted by this toll road proposal.

If the Marion BOCC truly wanted to have a decisive seat at the table with FDOT, they would have followed the example of the City of Dunnellon and Levy County and passed a No Build resolution asking FDOT to respect home rule and not bring a new toll road that will only act as a catalyst for sprawl in rural Florida. You can read the Ocala StarBanner’s coverage of the meeting here. Excerpt: 

Disapproval voiced during the commission meeting

Those in attendance at Tuesday’s regular meeting, the county commission’s first of the year, disagreed with the letter’s wording. Similar to the December meeting, many speakers, locally and from surrounding counties, went to the podium and expressed their frustrations. Some held posters and others read aloud from prepared statements.

If the turnpike extension is approved, speakers said, the roadway would severely impact the land, farmland, animals and people. They said the added concrete would ruin the area, pollute the water, rip apart people’s lives, destroy the area’s beauty and sully prime property for horses.

Some told commissioners that they feel neglected and that their voices are being ignored. As a warning, some went as far as to remind commissioners that their decision will be remembered at election time.

In the end, speaker after speaker asked commissioners to reconsider their stance and be like the Dunnellon City Council and the Levy County Commission. Both of those entities have urged FDOT to choose the “no build” option on the turnpike extension.