Alachua OKs one-year building moratorium

Published: Thursday, January 16, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 16, 2003 at 1:14 a.m.

ALACHUA - A one-year building moratorium that has been debated for more than six months was approved Wednesday night.

The vote came after commissioners voted to make all of their own property subject to the moratorium, even if it is in areas exempt from the measure, to avoid any potential conflict of interest.

Commissioner James Lewis said earlier in the day that an announcement on whether Wal-Mart will build a warehouse in the city should be made soon after the moratorium vote. The controversial project is exempt in the moratorium.

The moratorium was debated at length. Supporters said it will allow the city to more efficiently revise its land-use regulations.

Moratorium supporter Eileen McCoy said the city's planning staff needs a break to get regulations in order.

"They have a massive situation to deal with - things that have not been taken care of on a day-to-day basis probably for the past 20 years," she said.

Kiera Fitzgerald said without a moratorium, developers will try to rush projects through before the land-use changes are made.

"Every time you propose a revision you risk a flood of applications from people trying to get around it," she said. "We need the moratorium. (The staff) needs time, and developers need rules."

But most of the dozen or so speakers opposed the moratorium. City resident Robert Hartley said it has been discussed for six months and new issues over it keep cropping up.

"It gets deeper every time," Hartley said. "It's a mess."

Lewis said the moratorium is not needed and that the revision of land-use regulations and the city's comprehensive plan could be done without a moratorium.

"It's time to do away with the moratorium and just get down to business," Lewis said.

Lewis made a motion that the city vote down the moratorium.

His motion failed when Mayor Bonnie Burgess, Vice Mayor Tamara Robbins and Commissioner Diana Kosman-Rothseiden voted against it.

The vote in favor of the moratorium was unanimous. It took effect Wednesday night and a mandatory review must be held by July 15.

City Planning Director Laura Dedenbach said the revisions could be made without it, but not in a timely manner. She said it would give her more time to work on the revisions because fewer plans for major new development would have to reviewed.

Approval of the moratorium had been set for a final vote in December. But issues were raised over the ethics of commissioners voting for the moratorium if they owned property in an exempt area.

Assistant City Manager Lisa Absher said Wednesday night the state Ethics Commission indicated it would take several weeks to three months to complete a review.

Rather than wait, Absher said, city officials opted to propose changing the moratorium to make property owned by the commissioners subject to the moratorium.

Now, all property owned by commissioners or their families, or property in which commissioners have a financial interest, is subject to the moratorium regardless of whether the property is in an exempt area or is residential.

City planning officials say the moratorium is needed so the city can update its comprehensive plan and land-development regulations.

Both fall short of some state requirements, and the state Department of Community Affairs has given the city about a year to make the changes.

The downtown area is exempt. The moratorium will not affect the construction of single-family homes, projects that are now under way, the Progress Center and Turkey Creek developments of regional impact, public buildings and certain other development with the moratorium areas.

Cindy Swirko can be reached at 374-5024 or swirkoc@gvillesun. com.

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