Sounding the alarm

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Barbara Husar was just getting started when a fire alarm sounded, ending the final community meeting on the proposed extension of Apopka-Vineland Road.;;For months, Husar had been cornering Orange County officials and analyzing reports dealing with the $2.5 million road project, which would add a third north-south route, while leaving east-west traffic no less congested. But for the interruption by the piercing alarm, this Sept. 3 meeting was to have been her last chance to make her points before the proposal was sent to consultants hired to decide how -- if not if -- the road would be built.;;"It was just too much of a coincidence," said Husar. And although there is no evidence the alarm sounding was intentional, the county official running the meeting admitted that she had heard enough and was about to end the meeting anyway.;;"Trust me, we know what this lady wants," said Patsy McClure, aide to County Commissioner Tom Staley. "I had made the decision the time was up. We can’t just stay all night because the citizens want to." Rather than reschedule the meeting, allowing Husar and two others their chance to speak, Staley’s office told them to put their comments in writing.;;While this callous approach to public input might discourage the average citizen, it has only incited Husar and other neighbors living in the path of the proposed road to greater heights in their efforts to thwart the segment of the project between Silver Star and A.D. Mims roads.;;"I’m mad. Now they’re really in trouble," Husar said. So far, Husar has found an eagle’s nest near the north end of the project, which could be used to block the road work. Also, she said with a sly smile, two other protected animal species, scrub jays and gopher tortoises, dwell in the affected area.;;Meanwhile, Linda Bart, whose home lies where the road would dump four lanes of traffic onto two-laned A.D. Mims Road, has collected 100 signatures on petitions opposing the project. The petitions, along with five pages of questions, will be mailed to County Commissioners. And Bart is looking for an attorney with experience in eminent domain fights. "If we could tie this road up for five years, I would consider it a personal victory," Bart said. "We’re not going to go down without a fight.";;Citing the lack of traffic justifying the road, Bart suggests "Somebody’s got their own agenda," and points to Staley, whose drive to work and elsewhere could be simplified by the road.;;Earlier this year, Staley and McClure came under fire after it was discovered the county had expedited plans to pave Sandpiper Street, where Staley and McClure’s parents both live, at the cost of $452,000. But Staley denies any such personal interest in the Apopka-Vineland project, part of which has been planned for 40 years.;;"It’s not me. It’s been the vision of the county," he said. "It’s distasteful to some people. It’s for the good of the community." ;;Apparently, Staley’s community vision overrides the wishes of the homeowners who were gathered to dispute the road’s necessity, when the alarm went off.
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