County to sound off on state plan for new prison complex


Published: Monday, January 26, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 25, 2009 at 8:32 p.m.

The state Department of Corrections may learn on Tuesday how the Alachua County Commission feels about a proposal to build a new prison and mental health facility on NE 39th Avenue.

Discussion of the facility was a late addition last week to the agenda for Tuesday's meeting after commissioners learned that the state plans to file for the permitting to build a complex that eventually will cost in the $250 million range.

"Commissioner (Rodney) Long has asked for me to place the issue of the State Correctional Facility on the Agenda," County Manager Randall Reid wrote in an e-mail to commissioners.

"He would like us to be prepared to discuss the policy options the Commission has to influence this location decision by the State immediately," Reid wrote.

Long was critical of the idea when it first surfaced last summer. He believes too many correctional facilities are already on 39th Avenue by the Gainesville Regional Airport and that it could dampen attempts to lure more business to the vicinity.

Officials also have environmental concerns about the proposed location next to a state Department of Transportation administrative complex.

But the facility already has drawn some public support.

Dr. Joe E. Thornton, medical executive director of the North Florida Evaluation and Treatment Center, wrote in a letter to the editor to the Sun that the proposed complex would create professional jobs and could help create collaborative mental health and substance abuse programs.

Tuesday's meeting starts at 9 a.m. in the County Administration Building at 12 SE 1st St.

HATCHET CREEK EXTENSION: A letter from an attorney representing the developer of Hatchet Creek, a proposed development of 2,000 homes, asked for another extension for an application that would change the permitted land use of 500 acres just west of the airport.

Even though city staff has recommended approval of the comprehensive land-use change, the developer's attorney stated that if passed with the current "out-of-date" noise contour map, more than 70 percent of the property could not include residential units.

"Adoption of this recommendation would place the applicant in the untenable, and in my practice unprecedented, legal position of having to challenge its own comprehensive plan amendment," wrote Linda Shelley with the law firm Fowler White Boggs.

City Attorney Marion Radson, at the last hearing for Hatchet Creek, warned the applicant that the map would not change even if the petition were extended to January 2009.

Both Hatchet Creek and another proposed comprehensive land-use change, Plum Creek, will appear before the City Commission Monday night.

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