Newberry Rd. proposal gets thumbs down


Published: Saturday, January 14, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 14, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
Traffic has snarled approval of a new urbanist development of homes, shops and offices that has been proposed for Newberry Road west of Interstate 75.
The county Growth Management Department is recommending denial of the comprehensive plan changes sought for the complex. Planners say it would be too big for road capacity and have more commercial space than needed.
"There is some merit to this project but it just has some overlying issues - the traffic issue and the market capacity," said county Senior Planner Steve Lachnicht.
Gainesville attorney David Coffey, who is representing the developers, said it was known up front that traffic would be a concern and that provisions are being made for public transportation.
"I think there is going to be further discussion with staff regarding the recommendation," Coffey said. "We are already engaged in discussion with Gainesville Regional Transit System for this project to facilitate expansion of a bus route to include this area."
The proposal is set to be considered by the county Planning Commission Wednesday and the County Commission Feb. 14.
Newberry Village is proposed for an 87-acre tract from Newberry Square west to Fort Clarke Boulevard.
Planned are 900 residences of various types, 240,000 square feet of commercial space and 27,000 square feet of office space.
For comparison, the planned SpringHills development of regional impact at I-75 and 39th Avenue is seeking 1.56 million square feet of commercial space and 2,288 homes.
The county has several "activity centers" for intensive commercial development. One is the Oaks Mall area on both sides of I-75.
Newberry Village developers want a comprehensive plan amendment to expand the Oaks Mall Activity Center to the site.
They also want a transportation concurrency exception area to be created based on the public transportation that will be extended there.
Officials say Newberry Village has features the county encourages - mixed uses, high densities, bike and pedestrian paths and other hallmarks of new urbanism.
"It's a strong application in the respect that they are giving us the design we want to see," Lachnicht said. "It appears to be generally consistent with what we are trying to achieve in terms of a new urbanist design."
But traffic is a drawback. Newberry Road is nearing the limit of traffic that it will be able to handle. The section between Parker Road and I-75 has an average daily traffic count of 39,250 but that does not include traffic trips already reserved by other new development. The maximum is 49,000.
A review by the county's public works department states the traffic analysis is inadequate and that sections of Newberry Road will not have capacity for the added traffic.
"One of the problems the project faces is that (Newberry Road) is part of the Florida intrastate highway system and a degradation of the level of service is just not going to be permitted," said Assistant Public Works Director Michael Fay.
Meanwhile, the comprehensive plan requires a market study be done to determine the future need for more commercial space. The submitted study contends more space is needed. Coffey said the retail area could have a store as large as a supermarket but not big box stores.
The county believes the need for an additional 240,000 square feet of commercial space is not justified in the study. Coffey said differences of opinion exist over how the need for commercial space is calculated.
"I'm optimistic that issue can be resolved," Coffey said.
Erick Valle of Miami is designer of the project and on the development team. He is noted for his new urbanist projects, Coffey said. None of the developers are from Alachua County.
A different proposal for a 36-acre commercial development at the site was made in 2004. The project also failed to convince county planners that demand for the stores was justified. The proposal was later withdrawn.
Cindy Swirko can be reached at (352) 374-5024 or swirkoc@gvillesun.com.

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