Alachua likely to carry on debate


Published: Thursday, January 2, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 1, 2003 at 10:17 p.m.
ALACHUA - For the past year, a 1,700-acre parcel long ago targeted for development has been an Alachua conflict, and it surely will be in 2003.
Two major proposals for development on the land helped turn City Commission meetings into a forum for quarrelsome debate complete with feuds, pledges of lawsuits and other acrimony.
Wal-Mart still has not announced whether it will build a warehouse there. A government watchdog group, the Alachua Leadership Alliance, doesn't want the distribution center and has hinted strongly it will sue if the city allows the warehouse - which will ensure more rancor in 2003.
If Wal-Mart does not build there, different developments will be proposed that could be just as debated as Wal-Mart and Alachua West - the conglomeration of houses, offices and industry that was so large it qualified as a development of regional impact under state guidelines and was rejected by the city in mid-2002.
The land is owned by Waco Properties Inc. Dollar General already has a 250-acre warehouse there.
Waco attorney Ron Carpenter said regardless of what happens this year with Wal-Mart, the land will eventually be developed.
"I think ultimately it will be developed . . . with single-family, multi-family, commercial," he said. "It will happen at a pace where it doesn't require 'guesstimation.' When it's time for a single-family residential (development) someone will buy the land and say they want to do a single-family (development) out here."
But Robert Perez of the Alliance said the group will try to have the zoning changed to medium-density residential from its current industrial classification.
"We are planning to go forward with downzoning that land. That has been our plan - our ace in the hole - through the entire process," Perez said. "Let it be horse ranches, small ranchettes spread or whatever the surrounding usage is."
Meanwhile, a key seat up for election in 2003 could have a substantial impact on growth in Alachua.
Commissioner James Lewis has held the office for 12 terms - about 35 years. Lewis is generally viewed as staunchly pro-growth and has supported development such as Alachua West and Wal-Mart.
Buzz is already circulating around town about potential opponents should Lewis decide to run again. Perez said the Alliance will field at least two candidates - one each for the seats of Lewis and Orien Hills.
Cindy Swirko can be reached at 374-5024 or swirkoc@gvillesun.com.

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