Developer, county agree to dismissal of Springhills suit; new application to be filed by Monday


Published: Thursday, April 1, 2010 at 7:17 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, April 1, 2010 at 7:17 p.m.

The company behind the planned Springhills development will drop its lawsuit against Alachua County and apparently forge ahead with a new plan for the type of mixed-use, transit-oriented development that county government now seeks to promote in urban areas.

Facts

If you go

What: Community meeting on new plans for development of the Springhills property
When: 6 p.m. Monday.
Where: Best Western Gateway Grand Hotel ballroom, 4200 N.W. 97th Blvd.

The Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust (PREIT), owner and developer of the Springhills property, plans to submit a new, revised application for a land-use change to the county by Monday- - the deadline for the county's next cycle of large-scale land-use amendments.

Meeting that deadline could set the stage for an Alachua County Commission vote on the Springhills project before the Florida Hometown Democracy amendment goes to the state's voters in November, County Attorney Dave Wagner told county commissioners Tuesday. If Florida Hometown Democracy passes, land-use changes for development would require voter approval.

The approximately 390-acre Springhills property includes land to the northeast, southeast and northwest of the Interstate 75 interchange at Northwest 39th Avenue. In May 2007, the County Commission denied PREIT's land-use change application to increase the allowable retail development on site to approximately 1.5 million square feet.

In June 2007, PREIT challenged the denial in a lawsuit that argued County Commission discussions of the Springhills application during informal meetings, which are publicly noticed but do not have formal agendas, violated the state's open meeting law and that the county overstated the amount of money the developer had to put toward road projects to accommodate increased traffic from the project. At that time, the county said Springhills would have a $58 million impact on area roadways.

For the last year, the court case has been on hold as PREIT and county officials attempted to work out a compromise. David Coffey, the local land-use attorney now representing PREIT, said the new plan would follow the County Commission's recently approved long-term plan for future development and transportation in urban areas -- with a mix of compact residential and retail development, increased emphasis on pedestrian and bicycle traffic and the establishment of a bus rapid transit system.

Coffey, who is also the land-use attorney for the Santa Fe Village project planned to the east of Springhills, said the old Springhills plan represented "the old paradigm that produced sprawling, suburban development patterns." Now, he said PREIT is "completely embracing the transit-oriented development vision that the county wants to pursue" in urban areas.

He said the application for a land-use change will specifically seek changes to the categories of mixed-use and conservation. Coffey said the northern portion of the northeast quadrant of the property is among the areas that will be placed in conservation under the new plan. He said specific numbers on the square footage of retail development and the number of residential units have not yet been decided upon.

Alachua County Growth Management director Steve Lachnicht said county officials have worked closely with PREIT representatives over the last year and the new plan has come "into alignment with our current vision."

Under terms of the lawsuit's dismissal, both sides will pay their own attorney's fees. Wagner said staff attorneys in his department had handled the case and there were no costs for outside legal fees.

Contact Christopher Curry at 374-5088 or chris.curry@gvillesun.com

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