Leedy, a retired captain from the Marion County Sheriff’s Office said he does not agree with politicians who seek more than a two-term seat — referring to Zalak, who is seeking a third term.
Since the approval of the Florida Crossroads Commerce Park, which will destroy more than 1,000 acres of farmland in the middle of Marion Oaks, as well as other projects, residents have asked for change.
Residents have turned to social media groups and demanded that commissioners stop approving projects that not only destroy land and habitats, but also invite crime.
Residents are worried that Ocala is quickly becoming Orlando, and Leedy seemingly hears the people of Marion County.
Zalak spearheaded the Commerce Park Project and refused to listen to citizens who did not want the project in their backyard.
In an on-camera interview, Zalak said Marion Oaks residents were excited. However, dozens of residents interviewed by Ocala Post stated otherwise. Most said they had not even been informed about the project. Residents expressed concerns about the about of crime and traffic the project will bring to the area.
Ocala Post also interviewed real estate specialist Mark H ., who said that these types of projects not only tend to bring crime but also lower property value for surrounding homes. He said, no one “wants to live” next to an industrial or commerce park. Mark said he has been in the real estate business for more than 30 years and much of his career in Orlando. He said residents should be worried.
Mark said, “In my opinion, the commission targeted a community which already has a high crime rate and many of the residents live paycheck to paycheck. I feel like the residents should have had more of a voice.”
In an email to Ocala Post, Stacie Causey, Public Information Specialist for Marion County, wrote that the county did not consider Marion Oaks a high crime area, and denied that the land was chosen because of residents’ socioeconomic status.
As for morning and evening traffic on County Road 484, Causey wrote, “Traffic improvement plans for this area were also part of the original plan for the community and are already in progress. Examples of proposed traffic improvement plans include interchange lane improvements, alternate routes such as the proposed Southwest 49th Avenue extension, and a future flyover at Highway 42.”
Zalak contends that residents of Marion Oaks will now be able to work closer to their home instead of traveling into town.
Leedy says many residents who work inside of Marion County do not even live in the county.
Mark said, “Residents are not going to quit a job as say, a prison guard or nurse, to work in a commerce park for less money. It just doesn’t make sense.”
“The writing is on the wall…Marion County is on its way to becoming Orlando,” Leedy told Ocala Post. “At the state level, Marion County is already being pressured to become a commerce hub. If that happens, there will eventually be a toll road through Marion County.”
Leedy said a lot of taxpayer dollars have been spent on projects like AutoZone and the Florida Crossroads Commerce Park. He said commissioners promised jobs, but AutoZone is still struggling to hire employees.
Residents should also be aware that the Intercoastal Connector project is not a dead issue. It has simply been put on hold until after the election.
Leedy said that if he is elected he will protect Marion County’s reputation and farmland. He said he will also fight to make sure there is not a WaWa on every corner. Leedy said that in his more than 30 years of law enforcement experience, he has seen that these types of establishments not only bring more crime, but they also choke out surrounding businesses.
Leedy, who is an animal lover, has also been vocal about the rate at which the Marion County Animal Shelter euthanizes animals. In fact, Marion County has the highest euthanasia rate in the entire state.
In 2015, the Marion County Animal Shelter was investigated after bald eagles were allegedly poisoned after eating euthanized animals dumped at Marion County Baseline Landfill.
On social media, and after the topic received mass attention, residents said they found it laughable that during an election, Zalak announced Marion County would become a no-kill shelter.
Leedy said Marion County should have changed its policy a long time ago.
Unlike other commissioners, who after going against citizens’ votes on projects have been quoted as saying “citizens don’t really know what they want,” Leedy believes that if the majority says no, then commissioners should listen.
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