SpringHills' expansion moving forward in county

Published: Friday, January 20, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 19, 2006 at 11:58 p.m.
The first step toward allowing considerable expansion of the shopping area at SpringHills was approved by the Alachua County Commission Thursday night.
Commissioners agreed to move forward a comprehensive plan amendment expanding commercial space in a way that will allow several big stores.
The move was applauded by members of the Haufler family, who own the land on which SpringHills will be built. "I'm glad they are moving it forward. It's been a long time waiting," said family member Sandra Sontag. Sought are changes to build an extra 754,158 square feet of commercial space, bringing the total to about 1.56 million square feet. For comparison, Butler Plaza has about 1.2 million square feet.
The proposed amendments will be sent to the state for review. A final commission vote will occur after that review.
SpringHills will be a mix of residences and shops that is already under way at the NW 39th Avenue/Interstate 75 interchange. It is a development of regional impact - or DRI, a project so large it requires a much greater level of review and state approval.
The developer is Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust. The company wants modifications to the DRI and the comprehensive plan for added retail space, believing it is crucial for success. Also sought are changes to county regulations regarding design of such projects.
The main hangup has been the splitting of costs for roads that will be widened or built with costs estimated at $34.5 million. Pennsylvania Trust's share is $21.5 million to meet concurrency - state requirements that capacity for traffic that will be created by the development be in place when the development is completed.
Meanwhile, Pennsylvania Trust wanted the county to pay $13 million as proportionate share for increased traffic that would occur unrelated to SpringHills. The company also wants $11 million in impact fee credits and county payment of right-of-way costs. The cost for all road work would initially be paid by Pennsylvania Trust.
The $21.5 million would be paid off through the creation of a community development district on the SpringHills site. The district would charge fees to businesses and residents to pay off the development's share of the bonds.
County officials had several concerns over the road funding proposal. Among them was how the county would pay its share for the road work.
The county also wants its share of road costs capped at $13 million plus $1 million for right-of-way acquisition. And the model used by the trust to arrive at the cost estimates is faulty, the county maintains.
"Until we get to the calibration of the model, we are not prepared to say what a schedule of payments should be," said Growth Management Director Rick Drummond.
Agreement was reached over general framework for road work, cost sharing and a debt payment plan. Details will be hammered out in the future.

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