Letters to the Editor: Road congestion and development

Marion County farmland. [Bruce Ackerman/file photo.]

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Posted June 12, 2023 | By Tim E. Gant, President - Save Our Rural Areas Inc. 501(c)(3)

“They are so mad about traffic that they can’t see straight,” so reads the “Ocala Gazette” headline of a rather sticky situation the Marion County County Commission has discovered itself in.

The admission, coming from County Attorney Matthew “Guy” Minter, that, yes, the BOCC can and, indeed, has the obligation to just say no. This comes as bitter parody to those of us who have begged for such a commonsense approach for these past many years.

A guiding principle we have all learned from life is that when you dig yourselves into a hole, the first order of business is to put down the shovel. Unfortunately, it doesn’t help when the state passes laws that forbid you to put down the shovel. Couple that with the recently passed law that holds groups and individuals responsible for developers’ attorney’s fees if they challenge these decisions in court and lose, and the process of citizen participation comes to a sudden halt. A feeling of apathy and helplessness enshrines the public mood as the smell of bitter tar and dank feathers fills the public’s mind. Happy they are not. Indeed, one suspects our commission is not happy either as they as well as their constituents deal with their daily commute.

And now the proverbial chickens come home to roost, and a vague state statute makes it hard to see a clear way out of the morass.

Among solutions proposed, one that might work is more sales tax, but given the bad decisions already made the public is in no mood to trust those who made those decisions with even more of the public’s largesse. And if they build, under the current system, will they not come and build even more?

No, a better solution must be found. A first step would be a temporary moratorium.

This step would allow us all to catch our collective breath and seek out solutions that would work in the long term. It could be six months or 10 years, whatever it takes to get a grip on the situation.

Couple that with full public input in a meaningful dialog as to what the citizens visualize as to what we wish our area to look like in the future.

Perhaps the county should itself challenge the law and “roll the dice” as Attorney Minter stated in order to find out what the law does and doesn’t allow.

Someone long ago said “the business of America is business.” It could better be said that the business of America is its citizens, of which business is an important element but not the only one. In fact, that is closer to what Calvin Coolidge actually meant when giving the speech the quote is attributed to. The BOCC is, one way or the other, going to have to make some tough decisions. Let’s hope and pray they make the right ones and not elect to continue to kick the can down our badly overcrowded roads.

Tim E. Gant

President – Save Our Rural Areas Inc. 501(c)(3)

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