Mediation not the answer

Published: Monday, January 20, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 19, 2003 at 10:34 p.m.

Commission members need to work together to decide on effective plans to control urban growth sprawl.

The Gainesville Sun listed several problems in its "agenda for progress" (Jan. 1) that will continue to plague the community unless sprawl growth is addressed effectively.

This will not happen through mediation of the comprehensive plan as The Sun advocates.

Several of the problems in The Sun's list will be made worse by more sprawl growth:

  • Local transportation needs:

    Sprawl growth requires many more miles of roads that then undergo more wear and tear because of ever increasing travel distances.

    Furthermore, almost everyone must travel by car since bus service is so poor or non-existent for many.

    We cannot solve the transportation problem by building more roads. This will require compact urban growth to reduce driving and adequate funding of mass transit, which could be done with a significant portion of any gas tax increase along with impact fees for road improvements.

  • Rezoning schools:

    Under capacity schools are almost entirely on the east side of town, while the overcrowded ones are on the sprawling west side.

    A long-term solution requires controlling sprawl, with new development coordinated with available school capacity, not Band-aid rezoning.

  • Poverty and east Gainesville:

    Sprawl growth to the west has sucked the lifeblood out of downtown and east Gainesville. Businesses that were along Waldo Road (e.g. Lowe's, West Lumber, etc.), Hawthorne Road, Main Street and elsewhere have either gone out of business or moved west. East Gainesville has, in effect, been the rust belt of Alachua County.

    The impact on concentrations of poverty in the east is severe.

    Jobs moved to the west, inadequate bus service to those jobs, inadequate day-care and health care, poor performance in schools; it's a vicious cycle that cannot be broken by Plan East Gainesville if sprawl growth to the west continues unabated.

  • Annexations and merging city-county fire rescue:

    Orderly annexation with less trauma to the county would be possible with compact urban growth outward from Gainesville rather than the sprawl growth that the county's old comprehensive plan promotes.

    A single city-county fire rescue service would be feasible without turf protection or extra costs for city residents.

  • Mediate the comprehensive plan:

    Mediation instead of litigation sounds good until a closer look is taken. Sprawl developers and land speculators have filed a suit challenging the new comp plan to get what they want (continued sprawl to the west).

    Furthermore, with their support, two new commissioners beholden to them have been elected.

    In the 3-2 vote of the new commission for mediation, staff was directed to give the challengers essentially all that they want.

    The mediated plan will literally be written by and for developers without regard for community interest. Residents must contact commissioners before the developer-mediated plan is finalized, or face being stuck in traffic jams as long as they live here.

  • Public confidence in local government:

    While The Sun's comments relate to the city, public confidence in county government will reach an all time low once citizens realize that commissioners have revised the comp plan to assure profit of developers and land speculators who paid for their election.

    For the new commissioners to ignore the tens of thousands of hours its residents and multiple boards have spent over the last four years to build the vision that The Sun talks about is a terrible disservice to the community and chills public participation.

    Brent Gila has been an Alachua County resident for 15 years.

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