Roads a pivotal issue in SpringHills debate


Published: Saturday, January 27, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 26, 2007 at 11:39 p.m.

This is Gainesville, where roads lead to conflict.

The costs for road work necessary to handle traffic from SpringHills promise to be a complicated but key factor when the Alachua County Commission considers the project, possibly in April.

At issue are two sets of plans.

One is the original list of roads and intersections that will need improvement because of SpringHills. This set was used last year when the decision was made to forward the project to the state for review.

The second is a new set of estimates prepared by the county based on an analysis of road needs by the North Central Florida Regional Planning Council.

SpringHills attorney Patrice Boyes said the first list should be used. Changing in midstream of the process is unfair, she said. Boyes added that the state departments of community affairs and transportation have approved the list.

"The (DOT) has accepted our list of road improvements and DCA has essentially said 'cool,'" Boyes said. "We've been in this process for four years. These agencies were there in 2002 at the preapplication meeting. The state is saying it's too late — you can't come now."

SpringHills has agreed to pay a percentage of the cost of new roadwork under "proportionate share" — a state tool that allows developers to pay for road capacity needed to handle their project.

The new data is designed to show how much roadwork would be needed for SpringHills to meet concurrency, said county Growth Management Director Rick Drummond. Concurrency is the state law that requires that capacity exist when new development comes into existence.

The new list of roadwork is far more extensive than the original and includes six-laning portions of NW 39th Avenue and eight-laning some intersections.

Drummond said he will present that data to the County Commission when it considers the comprehensive plan amendment sought by SpringHills because it is the most recent data.

But Drummond added that the recommendation his department will make to the County Commission will likely not include doing all those roads.

Instead, Drummond said the recommendation will be do to roadwork that will have the most benefit with the estimated $58 million that SpringHills would owe for proportionate share of the total $120 million cost.

"If we are going to implement proportionate share, of all of those projects, where do we get the biggest bang for the buck?" Drummond said. "We worked with the city on intersection modifications — but not the massive eight-lane ones — and six-laning 39th Avenue in front of the project. We all got together and looked at, if we have $58 million to spend, where can we get the best results for the transportation network."

That still leaves about $62 million of work without a source of funding.

Under the original list of roads, SpringHills was projected to pay $40 million up front, with later reimbursement of up to $18.4 million.

Boyes believes the calculations for the new plan are flawed and the list is an attempt to get more money out of the developer, the Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust.

Traffic modeling was not done, Boyes said. She added that traffic which already exists on 39th Avenue was tacked on to the estimate of traffic SpringHills will create.

"This whole freelance exercise that the Planning Council went off on ... is faulty and it's not accepted by the state," Boyes said. "It wasn't coordinated with DOT and DCA."

Marlie Sanderson of the Planning Council disagreed, noting that city and county planners were involved.

"We did what I thought was a very thorough analysis of their transportation impacts," Sanderson said.

Regardless of what data is eventually used by the county and SpringHills to try to arrive at a proportionate-share formula, the latest numbers are being used as fuel by city commissioners and residents who oppose the project.

Cindy Swirko can be reached at 374-5024 or swirkoc@gvillesun.com.

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