By Bryan Boggiano
This story was updated to state Vice Mayor Sandy Welch referred to group homes and vulnerable populations.
Coconut Creek officials and residents expressed their frustrations with the Florida Department of Transportation’s (FDOT) proposed Turnpike expansion project at Thursday night’s public hearing at the Chateau Mar Golf Resort in Lauderhill.
Speakers included City Commissioners Jeffrey Wasserman, Jackie Railey, John Brodie, Vice Mayor Sandra Welch, City Manager Karen Brooks, City Attorney Terrill Pyburn, County Commissioner Mark Bogen, and more. Mayor Joshua Rydell could not attend, but Bogen spoke on his behalf.
The controversy results from a proposed project to widen the Turnpike and make roadway and infrastructural improvements along 17 miles.
The city commission discussed and condemned the extension, sending a letter to Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise stating eight lanes, not ten, would be the maximum they would compromise on. But, they reserved any rights until they saw updated renderings.
City officials stated they did not receive rendering until Wednesday night, despite months of Public Records requests to FDOT. While an alternative calls for an eight-lane option, ten lanes could be necessary by 2040.
Residents wore shirts reading “Wynmoor Strong” and toting signs reading “Our Lives Matter.”
“What you’re planning to do or what you’re wanting to do is ruin the health and the lifestyle of tens of thousands of people, and it’s absolutely unconscionable,” said Wynmoor resident Abbie Davidson.
Similarly, another Wynmoor resident, Barry Summer, said, “[Coconut Creek] is slowly not becoming beautiful…not because of the people, but because of the gosh-darn Turnpike.”
Residents also spoke out about potential health effects. Alfred Delgado said where he lives, soot from the highway is going onto his property.
“My kids are breathing that in every day,” he said. “These individuals’ lives are gonna be cut short precisely because of this pollution.”
The city commission heard their message loud and clear.
“People come to Florida, Coconut Creek, to retire, to have a peaceful existence; this would be destroyed,” said Commissioner Jackie Railey. “They deserve the same quality of life that each and every one of you have in your homes, and it would be criminal to put them through four to five years of construction.”
Commissioner Jeffrey Wasserman said the Turnpike expansion is a band-aid solution, at best, to addressing congestion.
“This expansion threatens our environment, our quality of life, and the very essence of what makes Coconut Creek special…,” he said. “It would disrupt the harmony we worked so hard to maintain.”
Commissioner John Brodie referred to the plan as “garbage.”
“We don’t want this. This is not something our community wanted…,” he said. “We’ve gotta deal with that noise, we’ve gotta deal with the pollution, and you guys are okay with that. I’m not okay with that.”
Officials also weighed in on the effects on financially underserved and other potentially vulnerable communities. City Manager Karen Brooks demanded more information about relocation assistance for residents along Sunshine Drive, while Vice Mayor Sandy Welch discussed the impacts on residents in group homes, including SOS Children’s Villages, and vulnerable populations.
Commissioners also stated there should be more focus on mass transit, saying Broward County continues to make strides.
“We have a number of improvements that are coming in the way of transportation and mass public transit, and this, I feel, is going in the opposite direction,” Welch said.
City officials vowed to keep the fight going and to stand united.
“We are Wynmoor strong, we are South Creek Strong, and we are Coconut Creek strong,” Wasserman said.
- A University of Florida journalism graduate, Bryan plans to pursue geosciences at Florida International University for his master's. He has a strong interest in weather, entertainment, and journalism.
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