Commissioners part ways on development, road space


Published: Wednesday, January 18, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 17, 2006 at 11:02 p.m.
Sharp divisions arose among Alachua County commissioners Tuesday over future development and the lack of road space for the additional traffic it will create.
Commissioner Cynthia Chestnut said stopping development is not the answer. Chestnut added she would prefer development in east Gainesville rather than continued westward growth but does not believe that will happen.
"Stopping development is not an option," Chestnut said. "I would like to see development of east Gainesville but I don't think we will be able to stop people from buying where they want to live. To deny development because we don't have capacity to provide for infrastructure will have a very, very chilling effect on economic development in this county."
But Commissioner Mike Byerly said the county should pursue compact, dense growth in the urban area and not underwrite sprawl by providing road capacity.
Byerly added developers should pay the cost through impact fees and other charges.
"I think we are hearing some answers from our staff but they are not the answers we want to hear because they require restraint, self-discipline and stopping this practice of cashing in all of the benefits right now and passing off the responsibilities and obligations to the next generation," Byerly said.
Spurring the discussion was transportation concurrency, the state law that requires road capacity be in place at the time new development is completed.
Sections of several roads in the county's unincorporated area are already over capacity while others are nearing it. Meanwhile, plenty of road capacity exists in east Gainesville, where development is a priority for Alachua County and Gainesville city commissioners.
County commissioners are faced with denying approval of new development proposals in several areas unless something is done.
"Right now, in the development order pipeline, there are orders coming where staff is going to have recommendations that will state there is no transportation capacity to support that development," County Attorney Dave Wagner said. "The question becomes, what do we do?"
Wagner cited a legal theory that if roads are not available to serve a development order today, it can be denied providing planning is under way for future capacity.
Options include building new roads or adding lanes, setting a new concurrency capacity on the roads to allow extra cars, or creating concurrency exception areas to allow growth at higher densities.
Different types of exception areas exist. They come with state-imposed requirements and could be enacted only in certain areas.
The county is planning to issue $30 million worth of bonds to repair existing roads. The county must commit tax money to pay off the bonds, which limits the amount it can spend on new roads and other county obligations.
Impact fees are in place to get money from new development for roads, but the amount does not cover the total cost.
Changing the level of service has only limited benefits and brings additional congestion.
County Growth Management Director Rick Drummond said the county needs to consider its overall philosophy on growth before deciding what options should be pursued.
"The important thing is not just concurrency, it's coordinating land use and transportation," Drummond said. "You have to look at the kinds of land uses you want to achieve and transportation. Do they mesh?"
Commissioners said they want more information on all of the options before deciding on which direction to take.
Cindy Swirko can be reached at 374-5024 or at swirkoc@gvillesun.com.

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