Letter: Weyerhaueser land use change will lead to massive sprawl
October 4, 2022
Despite the Gainesville City Plan Board’s 3-1 vote to oppose a land use change for 1778 acres along SR 121, north of U.S. 441 last month, Weyerhaeuser/Plum Creek and City staff are moving ahead with soliciting Gainesville City Commission approval for their proposal to bring high-density development to the rural north side of the city. They are seeking both a comprehensive plan and zoning change to move these parcels out of their current agriculture zoning designation.
The property contains hundreds of acres of wetlands and directly abuts a high-value conservation easement that protects the headwaters for three local creeks. The Commission is set to have a First Reading this Thursday, October 6, at 5:30 p.m. Here’s a link to the agenda; it’s the last item on the page.
The current proposal would allow for massive new sprawl in one of the least developed parts of the city, including nearly two thousand housing units spread around wetland areas.
There is no existing water or sewage service to the area, no public transit, and only one possible intersection to move the large increase in traffic to and from the rest of the city. If Gainesville wants to promote itself as a sustainable city that adheres to smart growth principles, City leaders need to do better than encourage urban sprawl in its exurban periphery.
Please attend the meeting, leave a public comment, and contact any City Commissioners you have influence with. To leave a comment email the council directly: email@example.com or click agenda item Z1 on the link to the agenda above. You can download all of the related staff reports from there as well.
The site directly abuts a high-value conservation easement containing Florida Natural Areas Inventory (FNAI) designated category 1 wetlands that serve as headwaters for multiple creeks. Per the applicant’s own wildlife surveys, the proposed development location serves as habitat for numerous threatened species of flora and fauna. Adding high-density development is anathema to keeping this area unpolluted, wildlife populations stable, and water quality high.
The site is on the exurban fringe of the city, distant from its urban core, bordering both preservation and agricultural designated lands on most of its borders, and thus the very definition of sprawl. This is greenfill development, not infill, and modifying our comp plan to accommodate it is simply bad growth management. We strongly advocate the City protect our few remaining rural areas, not pave them over.
Current transportation infrastructure in the area is not equipped to handle the large influx of residents per this proposal. There is only one intersection available leading south toward Gainesville, with most of the expected traffic to head in that direction from the proposed site. This intersection at 441 and 121 cannot handle the influx. It’s unclear what options for expansion are available given the active CSX line that crosses in close proximity to this intersection.
The site is not connected to any existing water utility infrastructure, the construction of which might encourage more sprawl in the area and serves as a serious risk to the highly sensitive wetlands directly to the east.
The site is not serviced by existing public transit links, with city staff only recommending that it “may require” the applicant to take action to implement bus service and a multi-use recreational trail along 121 if conditions make that possible [Staff Report Item #6]
There is a very low percentage of housing units slated for affordable housing/lower income, thus offering little relief for the segment of our population that needs it most.
Neither the city nor the developer has done much outreach to the community. These are dramatic changes to our city’s north side, and the public should be more engaged before we make changes to our comprehensive plan.
Thank you for your support on this important issue!
Tim Martin, Suwannee St.John’s Sierra Club
The opinions expressed by letter or opinion writers are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of AlachuaChronicle.com. Letters may be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org and are published at the discretion of the editor.
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