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Shirley and Ken Sponsler were stunned to learn after buying their Pine Ridge home that the Suncoast Parkway was coming to County Road 486, and their property could be in the path. "We just don't know what to do," Sponsler said.

Eighteen months ago, Ken and Shirley Sponsler found their dream home, the place they would enjoy retirement and reside the rest of their lives.

Now they wonder if the Suncoast Parkway is going to plow through their living room, or take part of the yard, or just roar by next door.

And it’s that wondering, the unknown, that keeps them awake at night.

“Limbo is what’s killing me,” Mrs. Sponsler said.

Many home projects were in the works. Now they’re just boxes.

“Everything we’ve done, we have just stopped,” Sponsler said. “We just don’t know what to do.”

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Ken and Shirley Sponsler bought their Pine Ridge home 18 months ago and never planned to leave.

The Sponslers live in Pine Ridge on a street parallel to and near County Road 486. They and other Pine Ridge residents are facing uncertainty over the state’s decision, made at the county commission’s urging, to extend the terminus of the Suncoast Parkway an additional 3 miles north of State Road 44, to C.R. 486.

While the state has yet to announce a route or where on C.R. 486 the road will terminate, many Pine Ridge residents are concerned it’ll drop off right at the community entrance.

“They’re kind of keeping us in the dark,” Michael McCoy, president of the Pine Ridge Property Owners Association, said of state transportation officials. “I’ve heard every story you can possibly imagine.”

While plans for what’s known as the Suncoast 2 have existed for more than 20 years, they always showed the parkway heading north from U.S. 98 to S.R. 44, then crossing north and west to U.S. 19 north of Crystal River at Red Level.

Interchanges were planned for Cardinal Street, S.R. 44 and, if necessary, C.R. 495, also known as Citrus Avenue. The plans called for an overpass, not an interchange, at C.R. 486 near Pine Ridge.

County commissioners in 2016 asked the state to continue the road to C.R. 486. At the time, commissioners and county officials said C.R. 486 was better equipped to handle additional traffic from the parkway than either S.R. 44 or the C.R. 491 section between S.R. 44 and C.R. 486.

Commissioners now say they support continuation to C.R. 486 because it takes the parkway that much closer to being routed farther north entirely out of Citrus County.

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Traffic moves along County Road 486 at the entrance to Pine Ridge. While the state had agreed with the county to extend the Suncoast Parkway to C.R. 486, nearly opposite the Pine Ridge entrance, that project is now uncertain with news of continuing the parkway to U.S. 19. Original plans had an overpass — not an interchange — at C.R. 486.

Several Pine Ridge residents approached commissioners in early December asking for support in moving the C.R. 486 terminus to the east, away from the community’s entrance.

At a meeting of the Pine Ridge POA board of directors Dec. 19, board member Jim Tucker encouraged residents to continue attending commission meetings to keep the issue fresh.

“Don’t let them forget us,” he said.

The Sponslers traveled the world during a 27-year Army career and lived in Atlanta before moving to Pine Ridge, closer to their daughter, who lives in Tampa. They had never heard of the Suncoast Parkway and, they said, neither the Realtor nor former owner said a word about it.

But they soon found out. The same day they finished a rear garage/office, the couple went to the mailbox and found a letter from a Tampa attorney asking if they knew the state may be seeking their property through eminent domain.

“I have been devastated since that day,” Mrs. Sponsler said.

There is no set route, though the state is seeking proposals for consultants to design the section between S.R. 44 and C.R. 486, Tucker said.

The Chronicle sent several questions to a Florida Department of Transportation spokeswoman, including information regarding possible routes and right of way. A spokeswoman said she is working on the request, but as of Dec. 20 had not provided any of the information requested.

Sponsler said he sent a letter to Gov. Rick Scott and has one ready to go for Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis.

After spending $365,000 for the 3-acre home and putting another $200,000 into improvements, the Sponslers don't know whether it’ll all be for naught — even if state planners leave their property alone.

“What’s our life going to be like living right up against that road?” Sponsler said.

McCoy, the POA president, said the parkway situation has Pine Ridge in a bind.

“It’s quality of life. That’s the whole thing in a nutshell,” he said. “An overpass would be bad enough, but to put an exit there that was never planned, that really screws things up.”

Contact Chronicle reporter Mike Wright at 352-563-3228 or mwright@chronicleonline.com.

(9) comments

RobertRoscow

Just show up in mass at the BOCC and don’t be nice. The fact is this road has zilch to do with transportation. It’s business for Jeb Bush’s creation: Florida Turnpike Enterprise (FTE). It is a de facto toll road building company run now completely by mega engineering firms. If they don’t build toll roads , they go out of business. If Ford and GM don’t produce cars and trucks they go out of business. It’s also become a great political carrot for the governor who gladly builds toll roads to big donors rural land holding. They make their money and leave. Guess who pays for the secondary roads needed: you. They also get all of the $700M plus from the original Florida Turnpike whose bonds were paid off in 1986. They use that money to back the bonds for new toll roads. That’s the deal. Yes the bonds are supposed to be repaid in x years but they keep changing X. After all, are they really going to tear up the road and plant watermelons. In terms of the S.C. 2 and CC they want to siphon off tolls from I-75 to bail out the S.C. financial disaster that could effect their bond rating. It’s the worst transportation solution going. How is adding more traffic to I-75 northbound going to relieve congestion on I-75. This is not a toughly. It can’t. It only increases it but it does turn the S.C. from a dog into a cash cow. No transportation solved just made worse. So yell at the BOCC about how in the world it’s going to help transportation. Have them explain how adding more traffic to a congested road lessens congestion!!! What total and complete malarkey. It ain’t over yet though and we hope shortly to make their lives miserable. As for the malarkey called progress, this toll road system will be the biggest economic drain going to the county. People will shop in Ocala or at the many malls south of us. Their high dollar purchases will go south. The Crystal Auto Group ain’t dumb. The Lambs now have a dealership on SR 50 at the S.C. 1. They see what’s coming why can’t the BOCC?!?! I guess because they are just pawns. By the way if you start redesigning a toll road and it causes people to lose their property by eminent domain , a new PD&E is required. This is from the mouth of Christopher Warren the deputy director of FTE in 2006. We will post his two memos on this on the Friends of Etna FB site later this week. Guess they just changed the rules again.

sierra1

These commissioners are the same clowns who plowed down the woodlands and built a parking lot and boardwalk around three sisters in order to charge people to gawk at what was once a truly idyllic setting. Also the same guys who approved a Racetrack gas station, convenience store, car wash and 7-11 store to be built outside the entrance to Sugarmill Woods. If you voted for these characters back into office last November, you have no business complaining!

KSponsler

Jaymiea,
Perspective is everything in this discussion. You say “growth” is a good thing. We looked at properties all over the cities and towns along the Gulf and North of Tampa. We moved from Atlanta to this quiet place because “growth” brings along with it the associated hazards, the crime, the crowds, the traffic, higher taxes, more regulation, more everything except peace, quiet and solitude. You say we “can’t stop it”. I disagree. Just because a bunch of politicians want something doesn’t make it right for the community. There are LOTS of folks around here who are not directly impacted as we are who also don’t want this road to nowhere. It has been a failure, has never lived up to the hype and promises of big toll revenues as promised. We’re taking plenty of deep breaths but this won’t work out for the better for us or in our view, this wonderful place to live. If we had wanted to live in a place with “growth” we couldv’e moved to Tampa, Ocala, Orlando, Jacksonville or a dozen other places. We love it here just the way it is.

LAWRENCEPYZIK

We moved to Pine Ridge in 1999. Our realtor told us about the parkway when we bought back then.

JAYMIEA

Growth is a good thing. Yes it hurts sometimes, but you can't stop it. I have watched the town grow tremendously since 1975. I am for the parkway coming to Citrus, and if it so happens to come past my house or take my house, then I will rebuild. God bless and just breath it will all work out for the better.

CitrusCo Citizen

You can stop growth. In a former town I lived in, Walmart tried to move in and we fought it, twice and won. We didn't want prime old growth forest and farmland bulldozed and paved as well as all of the truck traffic, part time jobs to attract lower income people who already had no transportation, no housing and very needy children who would require more hiring of special education teachers and reading specialists. We didn't have the infrastructure---roads, sewers, etc and Walmart was't going to provide that. It was the people who were under thirty who did all of the work in chasing Walmart out--the next generation! We had to watch "urban sprawl" all of the time and we did! Now people come out of the cities on the weekends to bike the beautiful countryside, hike the wonderful trails and enjoy the the art, pottery and glass studios of a place that maintained its natural beauty.

lonewolf

Years ago former Commissioners Damato, Joe Meek and others could have killed this project through Citrus County. They did not even allow a referendum vote for Citrus county residents. What a mistake that was.

TOMP

And the same commissioners that voted to tell the FDOT to build the road anywhere north of 44 they want to take the road...were re-elected!

CitrusCo Citizen

If you voted for them and you now have a letter of eminent domain, then, oh well. Too bad. There were other candidates who were against the Suncoast--you should have listened to them.

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