The road to nowhere

Kim Lafluer wanted the East Orange Citizens' Coalition (EOCC) he heads to become more than a one-trick pony. Instead of focusing solely on the east-west connector, a controversial county road slated for a vote June 26 `see Paving the way, May 10`, he wanted it to take on school crowding and other community issues.

For a while, it looked like he was succeeding: Last month, the EOCC added homeowners' groups from Seminole County to its ranks, making for a head-count in the hundreds. It was filing its corporation papers. But then, Lafluer says, an announcement by Orange County Chairman Rich Crotty effectively killed the movement -- and in the process, he thinks, ensured the road's approval.

Neither the chairman nor his fellow commissioners had followed through on promises to meet with concerned East Orange residents. Crotty's staff told Lafluer he was still studying the issue. But then, two weeks ago, Crotty -- whose "State of the County" address last week emphasized his commitment to neighborhood groups -- announced that he was seeking money to speed up the connector's link with the Naval Training Center redevelopment, which members interpreted as a surefire pro-road sign.

After that, Lafluer says, the road's opponents resigned themselves to defeat and vanished. Those who didn't completely pull out of the political process began looking for ways to protect their individual neighborhoods.

"We don't have the support anymore," says Lafluer, who cancelled a planned June 5 protest outside of the Orange County Commission meeting. "We don't want this road, but I think it's a done deal. They're saying, ‘F you, we're not going to meet with you.'"

Not everyone has thrown in the towel. Marge Haverland-Holt, an EOCC founder and ardent Audubon Society member, still holds tight to the no-road philosophy. To Lafluer, that's no longer acceptable. "It's time for communities to start looking out for themselves," he says.

Haverland-Holt, on the other hand, sees Lafluer as the thorn. "At this point," she says, "there's no concessions that have been made. Kim has created a rift over there in his own area. I hope he doesn't come out and hurt things."

On June 13, Haverland-Holt and attorney Kevin Cannon have the first -- and only, as far everyone can tell -- meeting with Crotty, but Lafluer's not invited.

"They really don't have a lot," Lafluer counters. "They have Kevin and her."

Holt -- who opposes the road on principle, not because it will divide her neighborhood -- believes most of her neighbors don't want to compromise. And even if they do, she says, they'll be in a better place to do it if they maintain the no-build line for now. She promises a protest outside of the county's administration building the day of the vote.

Lafluer says he still maintains some hope, but he adds, "I'm really sorry `the organization` didn't work out."

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