Oppose the land-use change at Paynes Prairie


Published: Sunday, January 23, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 22, 2005 at 10:57 p.m.
Our Paynes Prairie State Preserve is currently being threatened by efforts to eliminate the protective preservation zoning of a segment of land on the rim of the prairie. The proposed land-use change would downgrade the zoning to what is termed C-1, which would allow commercial as well as residential development.
There are numerous reasons for your county commissioners to oppose this land-use change when the proposal is discussed and voted on by them on Tuesday, Jan. 25, at the 5 p.m. County Commission meeting. The proposed use for the property as a tourist attraction will involve paving a sizable amount of land for a parking lot to accommodate cars, tourist buses and delivery trucks, as well as construction of a reception building with sanitary facilities. These represent a potential source of risk to the adjacent delicate ecosystems of the prairie.
Also at risk of contamination is Sweetwater Branch, a freshwater stream providing important water flow into the prairie. The stream is located near the rear of the property. High-volume traffic in the area will impact not only the prairie but the neighborhoods that lie along the access roads, such as Colclough Hills and Kirkwood.
Perhaps most compelling of all reasons to reject this proposal is that it will set a precedent for future requests to downgrade other lands sharing boundaries with Paynes Prairie to C-1 as well. The developer who is requesting a weaker zoning owns additional property near the prairie which could be utilized commercially under this change. Encroachment into more of the areas zoned for preservation does not bode well for the health of the prairie.
Alachua County is under intense pressures of more and more development, fewer and fewer trees, increased flooding, decreasing habitat, contaminated soils and other problems. It is therefore even more urgent that we stringently protect Paynes Prairie, all that remains to us of a once-vast natural region.
We are supported in the effort to retain preservation zoning on the rim of the prairie by the following organizations: Greenspace Preservation Association, Glen Springs Preservation Association and the Florida League of Conservation Voters. Let us not go the way of South Florida. Let us protect the natural legacy that has been vouchsafed to us all.
Francine Robinson, past president, Florida League of Conservation Voters

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