City roadblock hurting Umatilla Boulevard businesses, owners say

UMATILLA, Fla. – Some Umatilla business owners said they are losing business after the city installed roadblocks along Umatilla Boulevard this week citing safety concerns.

Greg Cummins said his regulars line up first thing in the morning outside of Greg’s Haystax restaurant. The business has been located on the corner of Umatilla Boulevard and Palmetto Street for 37 years.

“And we discuss all the hot topics and major news, local news,” Cummins said of his regulars.

The talk recently has been about the large barricades blocking the north and south access to Umatilla Boulevard. The city put the roadblock in place on Tuesday.

Cummins said it is creating a traffic nightmare. Cars are forced to turn around and many drivers avoid the closure using side roads.

It’s also hurting his business, Cummins said.

"It has definitely slowed our business down. A lot of people are like, 'It's hard getting in and out of your place,'" he said.

Umatilla City Manager Scott Blankenship said there is still access to Umatilla Boulevard.

“We have five other ways to get in there,” he said.

The city installed the roadblocks because of safety concerns, Blankenship said.

Blankenship said on the north end of Umatilla Boulevard, there is a busy five-point intersection near the high school and on the south end, there is a unique turn that causes traffic issues.

He said it has been like this for a long time, but now there is more traffic moving through the city on Highway 19.

“Growth is coming. With the extension of the (State Road) 429 coming out this way, we are starting to feel the pressure of growth,” Blankenship said.

Cummins said he is worried the roadblocks are part of the city’s conceptual plan to redevelop the area.

The city drew up plans to build a 75-room hotel and build a walkable corridor with shops and restaurants.

Cummins said he knows growth is unavoidable, but he doesn't think this fits.

"There's growth, it's coming. We don't have any choice in that. But what we can do is slow it down a little bit," Cummins said.

Blankenship said the city can’t stop the growth, adding the redevelopment concept is only a plan at this point, but he believes it would be a huge boost for the city economy.

“The redevelopment opportunity will increase the level of jobs and economic impact to the corridor that can only happen with redevelopment,” Blankenship said.

Blankenship said the roadblocks will likely be permanent.

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