Connector road would split area
By BRIDGET HALL GRUMET, Times Staff Writer
INVERNESS -- County officials left the informal maps in Floral City, but now the drawings are causing heartburn in the Inverness Highlands.
As part of the county sketches suggesting a U.S. 41 bypass west of Floral City -- pitched as an alternative to four-laning the highway through town -- the county has also suggested a new connector road between U.S. 41 and County Road 581 that would cut through the south end of the Inverness Highlands.
The connector would start on E Watson Street, jut south through Albert Rooks' ranch, then turn west onto E Anna Jo Drive.
The road could provide access to the industrial park that will be part of the Inverness airport expansion. It could also relieve U.S. 41 S by letting Brooksville-bound drivers hop over to CR 581 (which turns into County Road 481 in Hernando County).
But Highlands residents say the connector's perks would come at the expense of their community, which would be divided by a road with industrial traffic.
Lee Cloward, vice president of the Inverness Highlands Civic Association, already has collected about 100 petition signatures from neighbors opposing the idea.
"We want to make sure the County Commission knows very clearly the residents of the Inverness Highlands are opposed to any bypass road that splits our community, even as a relief road for the business park," Cloward said.
County officials have emphasized all along that the sketches are simply ideas. They have not been discussed or approved by the County Commission or the state Department of Transportation.
The county left the U.S. 41 bypass maps in Floral City last month, after a town hall meeting on alternatives to four-laning the road through town. For several weeks, residents were able to view the maps and fill out comment cards at the Floral City library.
After Floral City leaders registered their opposition to the U.S. 41 bypass idea to county officials, they passed the maps on to Cloward last week.
"I felt it only just to forward the maps to (the Inverness Highlands Civic Association) since Floral City no longer has a use for them and all three map options did have information for the Highlands," Floral City Heritage Council member Marcia Beasley wrote in a June 20 note to County Commissioner Jim Fowler.
An Inverness Highlands forum Friday night drew a crowd that passionately opposed the connector road idea. Cloward said he has requested time on the Aug. 27 or Sept. 10 County Commission agenda to bring homeowners' concerns to the county.
"For us, it is real," Cloward said. "We have defeated three other plans for bypass roads over the years. If people don't protest it, it happens."
If the county believes a better connector is needed between U.S. 41 and CR 581, Cloward suggested improvements to County Road 480 to make the road easier for commercial trucks to use.
Fowler, County Administrator Richard Wesch and Assistant County Administrator Ken Saunders were at a Florida Association of Counties conference Wednesday and were unavailable for comment. Public Works Director Ken Frink did not return a call Wednesday.
-- Bridget Hall Grumet can be reached at 860-7303 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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