A flawed growth vision

Published: Friday, January 27, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 26, 2006 at 11:26 p.m.
I would feel better about the future of Alachua County if there was a coordinated vision shared by both county government and our business community.
Last week's Sun article on proposed changes to the land use plan to benefit megadevelopment suggests the County administration has concluded the only way to grow the County's economy is to allow massive new residential development, notably the proposed megadevelopment, Spring Hill at I-75 and NW 39 Avenue.
However, Sunday's article on the work of the Council for Economic Outreach (CEO) did not even mention new residential development as a part of future economic growth. To the contrary, CEO envisions upgrading the employment of our present work force, pointing out that our small town image is what attracts new employers to the area.
In choosing the wrong means to grow the economy, county government risks destroying our greatest attraction to new business. Notwithstanding the absence of economic justification, county staff seems prepared to grant exceptions and modifications to present land use on the further mistaken belief that every property owner is ultimately entitled to build whatever he chooses.
Contrary to the statement of staff, courts in Florida have never held that anyone who buys 20 acres of pasture land is entitled to build a mall or scores of homes, simply because he chooses to do so. Such development benefits the property owner's pocketbook but at the expense of other homeowners and it can change the very nature of an existing neighbor- hood.
Our courts recognize that the property rights of the community are impacted and will not disturb a land-use plan that is fairly administered and is not arbitrarily riddled with changes and exceptions.
Moreover another article last week reported that the arterial streets that would serve Spring Hill are already at 80 percent to 100 percent of capacity. Certainly traffic gridlock, outpaced services and over-crowded schools will not attract new business to our community.
We need a single clear vision of the future Alachua County, one that is consistent with the lifestyle of our community. If overcrowded and underserved is the goal of some, respectfully they should move to Orlando or stay in Miami.
The County Commission has the future of our county in its hands, to either nurture or squander. The strategy suggested by CEO insures economic growth without destroying our community's values. The CEO plan should be heeded.
R. Layton Mank is a third-generation Gainesvillian. His grandfather, Caleb Rodney Layton, was mayor of Gainesville from 1922-26.

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