Approximately 350-400 people turned out to a Killearn Home Association sponsored meeting to hear more about the Northeast Gateway project and to ask questions.
It became evident early in the meeting that the most important question for a number of the attendees – who were overwhelmingly against the project – was if the project was a “done deal.”
However, a straightforward answer to the question would not come until Tallahassee Mayor John Dailey addressed the dwindling crowd after two hours of back and forth and said the controversial project was “not a done deal.”
Before Dailey spoke, Blueprint officials gave a presentation and addressed specifics of the project which will connect Shamrock at Centerville Road with a two lane road that leads to a new four lane road called Welaunee Boulevard.
However, officials told the crowd that a detailed traffic analysis would not be completed until later this fall.
This was frustrating to most who see the project as increasing traffic through the Killearn Estates neighborhood, which already has traffic issues.
It was revealed during the meeting that the KHA currently hires off duty law enforcement officers with homeowner dues to provide extra traffic enforcement in the neighborhood.
Questions from the attendees were focused on traffic issues, property values and surprise at how this project has become a priority without more input from Killearn residents.
Officials reminded attendees that the Gateway was one of twenty-seven projects approved by Leon County elected officials and voters through a referendum in 2014.
The meeting, which was heated at times, was consistent with the response by attendees of the initial meeting held at the Holy Comforter School in March.
Ben Pingree, a ranking Blueprint official, told that crowd that there is a process for amending a Blueprint project and that it recently happened with a gateway plan.
Pingree was referring to a vote back in February 2018 by the Blueprint Intergovernmental Agency which amended and expanded an airport gateway plan for Springhill Road.
Ultimately, the fate of the project is in the hands the the Blueprint Intergovernmental Agency which is composed of the seven Leon County Commissoners and five Tallahassee City Commissoners.
Dailey, who observed the meeting before speaking, asked the crowd to take a deep breath before he made his comments.
He hearkened back to the days when he was a kid growing up in Killearn Estates and said “I need you to work with me.”
He asked for better communication between the KHA Board and the elected officials and asked that the discussions remain respectful towards the staff members who are doing their job.
While the KHA Board has taken a strong stance against the project, Board member Will Messer offered measured comments to TR after the meeting.
“I think it is important that we wait until the traffic analysis is completed before we jump to conclusions. This information will help us determine how to move forward and find solutions that are in the best interest of our neighborhood,” said Messer.