City votes to 'strongly' oppose SpringHills


Published: Tuesday, January 23, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 23, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.

The Gainesville City Commission offered strong opposition to the SpringHills development on NW 39th Avenue, referring to the project as a "nuclear bomb" that would have devastating effects on areas near northwestern Gainesville.

Facts

How they voted

To tell the Alachua County Commission that the Gainesville City Commission strongly opposes the plans for SpringHills.

  • Yes: Gainesville Mayor Pegeen Hanrahan, Gainesville City Commissioners Ed Braddy, Rick Bryant, Jack Donovan, Scherwin Henry, Craig Lowe and Jeanna Mastrodicasa
  • No: None

Commissioners voted unanimously to send a message "strongly opposing" a plan now before the Alachua County Commission that would expand the mixed-used development.

The project has been strongly opposed by residents on Millhopper Road who worry about the effects of a massive increase in traffic that would require $120 million in road improvements.

Commissioner Jack Donovan said that were the Alachua County Commission to approve the changes, it would amount to a "declaration of nuclear war on the city."

The statement, greeted by loud applause from the more than 70 residents who showed up to oppose the project, was only one of several comments made during the meeting that compared the project to a nuclear disaster.

"I don't see any positive news from this development," said Donovan, who raised concerns about its effects on property values, the city's economic health, plans for downtown development and environmental and affordable housing concerns.

The city's recommendation to the county is nonbinding but adds weight to a growing movement of residents opposed to a revision to the project.

The changes would result in a project with 1.56 million square feet of retail space and 2,000 residences near NW 39th Avenue and I-75. By comparison, Butler Plaza on Archer Road has about 1.2 million square feet of retail space.

"Our concerns are that it is a bigger issue than has been stated so far," said Kim Davidson, president of the Coalition for Responsible Growth, an organization formed to oppose the project.

The project is up for review by the Alachua County Commission and has received what Alachua County Growth Management Director Rick Drummond described as "tepid" support from county staff. The project is in an area designed for development but could have significant impacts on nearby areas, he said. "We don't dispute those impacts or those potential impacts," Drummond said during the meeting. "We recommended that the County Commission look at this with great caution."

City Commissioner Rick Bryant said opposing the project would help prevent the County Commission from looking back at a grievous mistake. But Bryant said it was important for the City Commission to continue supporting "good growth, smart growth."

Patrice Boyes, a Gainesville attorney representing the project's developers, said the project would still move forward and said she did not think Alachua County commissioners would be swayed.

Boyes, contacted by phone Monday night, characterized the commission's action as an attempt to squeeze money out of a project at the last minute.

"You can't wait until an applicant is all the way through a very expensive multimillion dollar process and on the eve of the final vote try to derail it," Boyes said.

Boyes said the retail in the project would not hurt Gainesville businesses because it would draw customers from a multicounty region.

City commissioners used the opportunity to score a few points in their ongoing effort to annex more of the urbanized areas surrounding the city. Commissioner Ed Braddy noted that the City Commission was coming to the aid of the coalition and pointed out various other benefits of city residency.

"You good folks live out in the county and we're on your side," Braddy said. "I'll just state it as bluntly as I can: You guys should be calling our Office of Strategic Planning tomorrow and finding out how you can voluntarily annex into the city."

He reiterated the call later in the meeting. "Will you all consider now coming into the city? Will you add that to the list of considerations? You want to get the county's attention? There's no better way of getting the county's attention than that."

Jeff Adelson can be reached at (352) 374-5095 or adelsoj@gvillesun.com.

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