Comp plan gets county evaluation


Published: Saturday, March 1, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, February 29, 2008 at 11:44 p.m.

It took a few years to write, and then a few years to implement because of a lawsuit, and now Alachua County's comprehensive plan is already up for review.

Facts

Upcoming meetings

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  • Public meetings in the Alachua County Comprehensive Plan Evaluation and Appraisal Report process:4:30 p.m. Thursday: Kanapaha Middle School, 5005 SW 75th St., Gainesville

    4:30 p.m. March 17: Alachua County Health Department, 224 SE 24th St., Gainesville

    4:30 p.m. March 24: Newberry City Hall, 25440 Newberry Road, Newberry&
  • Meetings will be held in all corners of the county for both residents and for special interest groups to learn what should be changed in the plan for the state-required Evaluation and Appraisal Report.

    "The first stage is to identify the significant issues in your community, and it should be fairly specific things," county Principal Planner Steve Lachnicht said. "We're making an effort now to open our ears and get all of this input."

    Just one meeting has been held so far. It was in Hawthorne and Lachnicht said about five people attended. But representatives of various groups such as the Builders Association of North Central Florida and the Suwannee-St. Johns group of the Sierra Club said they will have a strong role in the process.

    Florida requires counties to have a comprehensive plan that sets land uses and is the basis for land-development regulations. Addressed in the plan are environmental protection, economic development, social equity, transportation, housing and other factors.

    All new development must be consistent with the comprehensive plan.

    Alachua County's current comprehensive plan was adopted in 2002. A group of landowners filed suit, claiming elements of the plan severely limited their ability to use their property.

    The suit was eventually settled and the comprehensive plan became effective in 2005. Land-development regulations needed to implement the plan were adopted later in 2005.

    Now under way is a state-mandated seven-year review to gauge how the new plan is working and what changes may be needed. The commission must approve an evaluation report by 2009 for submission to the state.

    Any changes will be made as comprehensive plan amendments.

    County Commission Chairman Rodney Long already has some ideas of what he would like changed, including a program that would ease some environmental restrictions in east Gainesville to foster growth there.

    Long would also like provisions to require developers to present detailed design plans when seeking comprehensive plan amendments rather than waiting until later in the process to submit those plans.

    "One of the things we certainly need to change is . . . to make it so that comp plan amendments actually reflect what we want the pictures to be. It may be cumbersome and staff may not like it, but I think it adds a little more assurance to people," Long said. "I don't know how we'd do it yet, but I'd like to see us address some of the environmental policies as they relate to east Gainesville and also some of our economic development policies. We have to make sure they are in sync."

    Sierra Chairman Rob Brinkman said the organization is already involved in the process and plans to take an active role.

    Brinkman said comprehensive plan policies that deal with transportation and environmental protection - including Long's east Gainesville ideas - will be of special interest to Sierra.

    "We will be attentive to how it is modified. There have been discussions about some county commissioners wanting to make some modifications for purposes of developing east Gainesville, and we'd certainly want to stay on top of that," Brinkman said.

    Adam Bolton of Robinshore Inc., governmental affairs chairman of the Builders Association, has already met with county staff on the evaluation process.

    Bolton said the organization hopes that the county will consider its current money constraints before implementing any new rules that will require more county oversight, which would slow down the development approval process.

    Another key interest to builders is the cost of affordable housing and the effect comp plan changes may have on home prices.

    "We think its real important that with any new requirements that the county will take a very close look at what they will cost the county in terms of administration," Bolton said. "The comp plan right now has made some pretty dramatic increases in home costs."

    Cindy Swirko can be reached at 352-374-5024 or swirkoc@gvillesun.com.

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