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SORRENTO, FL-This tranquil horse-riding area of rural Central Florida may be dotted with new residential, retail and commercial development over the next 10 years if a planned extension of State Road 429, north from Apopka, FL, moves into the construction stage, 28 miles northwest of Downtown Orlando.

The Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority and Lake County government officials tell area residents that specific road work is only in the conceptual stage and may not even be built.

But residents aren’t buying that argument. They are demanding to be heard at a Sept. 18 public meeting scheduled by the road-building agency and Lake County elected officials.

“We may still be in the boondocks but that doesn’t mean we are backward,” a landowner tells GlobeSt.com on condition of anonymity. “Lake officials didn’t want us to present our views at this upcoming meeting but we insisted and we will be there in force.”

The meeting is tentatively scheduled for the Lake County government offices in Tavares, FL, the county seat.

In the past nine months alone, residents have seen Heathrow Country Estates approved for a 323-home community between County Roads 44 and 46, just north of Plymouth, FL; Sorrento Hills, approved for 678 residences near County Road 44, 15 miles east of Eustis, FL; and heard Charlotte-based Duke Energy asking the county’s permission to build a $200 million, 640 megawatt merchant power plant on a 788-acre tract between County Roads 44A and 44, five miles outside the city of limits of Eustis.

“Developments are moving in quickly and the question is do the residents here want their elected officials to approve this new way of life for them,” a longtime landowner tells GlobeSt.com.

Another property owner who has bought up tracts around his property to block potential new development tells GlobeSt.com, “We all know some growth is coming eventually but what bothers us is not knowing when and elected officials and their staffs keeping us in the dark for the most part on future road-building and commercial development plans.”

Lake County commissioners couldn’t be reached at GlobeSt.com’s publication deadline for comment but county staffers tell GlobeSt.com all road-building plans, development applications and notices of public meetings on those projects are routinely published by state law in daily and weekly periodicals and are often sent out as separately mailed flyers to taxpayers as well.

“Nobody at the county level is keeping anybody in the dark,” a county staffer tells GlobeSt.com.

What particularly concerns residents is the influence major developers such as Walt Disney World Co. have on the four-county area that comprises Lake, Orange, Seminole and Orange counties.

Residents have heard, read and been told that the long-planned first leg of the Western Expressway will eventually run near the western edge of Disney’s 30,000-acre empire in Lake Buena Vista, FL, 20 miles south of Downtown Orlando and 30 miles northwest of east Lake County.

The planned toll road would connect U.S. 441 north in Apopka and State Road 50 in suburban, Ocoee, FL; continue south, passing just west of Disney’s property and then southeast to Interstate 4.

Once that road segment is completed, the fate of a 180-square-mile environmentally protected zone for wildlife in Lake, Orange and Seminole counties since 1988 would be clear, fear residents and landowners in east Lake County.

“It’s just a hop, skip and jump from State Road 429 (Western Expressway) to our county road connections,” a member of a pioneer property-owning family tells GlobeSt.com on condition of anonymity. “This will become a developer’s heaven.”

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