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Thursday, March 23, 2023

Resident shares thoughts on Ocala/Marion County’s rapid growth, leadership

To the Editor:

I’ve been an Ocala resident for 7 years now. I’ve seen this county grow at a staggering rate, which is great for Marion County. Folks are leaving the bigger Central Florida cities to live a more financially sustainable life. While Ocala continues to grow, our roads, utilities, retail, and family-friendly things are not.

Our roads are some of the worst in the state. They cannot handle the daily flow of traffic from one end of Marion County to the other. Marion County is one of the fastest growing areas in Florida, yet our county leaders do nothing to combat traffic issues. Stop lights are not synced properly, which would allow traffic to flow more smoothly. Two-lane roads and roads off major corridors need to be widened. Inner county connector roadways need to be addressed to take traffic off major roadways.

There must be a way for farmers and the county to work together to combat this traffic nightmare we have. We need options and our county leaders need to start doing their jobs. Publicity stunts around the county aren’t helping the present nor the future of Marion County.

We need more funding for infrastructure around utilities. We need more choices and more reliable cost effective electrical service. Marion County residents are paying some of the highest rates in the state, yet the power grid isn’t sufficient enough to handle the growth.

When it comes to shopping or dining, we need more options. We have the same ole same ole restaurants in Marion County and need more bigger chain-style options. Locally owned restaurants and shops are wonderful, but we need more options. We have more fast food restaurants than I’ve ever seen. We have a mall that’s barely afloat and in bankruptcy. We have gas stations on every corner, next to every type of car wash one could imagine.

I’m from the northeast where it snows in the winter. We need car washes up north. We don’t have as many up north as Marion County. It’s out of control. Just today, I saw signs for five additional car washes along 200, 484, and 40. Why so many car washes? Can’t we get more nationally known retail stores and restaurants? Can’t we cut down on the amount of gas stations?

We have plots of deserted land that look horrible. Why aren’t the county leaders holding the land owners responsible for cleaning up areas where businesses have folded up and moved on? These locations would be great spots for nationally-known restaurants or retail sites.

Finally, 27, 40, and 484 need more retail stores, restaurants, and grocery stores. Why is everything on 200? We have other major arteries in Marion County that have space available for these businesses. When will our leaders start pushing companies to build in these areas? When will Marion County citizens stand up and speak their minds, ask for more from their leaders? We need more as this county continues to grow at a faster rate than the roads, restaurants, and grocery stores can handle.

We need leaders who are more worried about taking Marion County into the 21st century and less of those who look for the photo ops and try to get the attention of state leaders. We need real local leaders who work for the people instead of attending county meetings to check the box and look good. People need change. Marion County seems to be in last place when it comes to progress and change.

In the coming years, I hope that Marion County residents vote to change leadership to those who want to do better for us. We surely deserve it. We don’t deserve photo ops. We deserve hard working leaders building Marion County up to its true 21st century potential.

Michael Scipioni
Ocala resident