Vote on trail through Haile ends up tied


Published: Tuesday, September 4, 2012 at 11:06 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, September 4, 2012 at 11:06 p.m.

The Alachua County Commission deadlocked Tuesday on whether part of a multi-use path, the Archer Braid Trail, should run through Haile Plantation, leaving its divided residents to argue both sides for a while longer.

With Commissioner Paula DeLaney in North Carolina attending the Democratic National Convention, the remaining commissioners tied in a 2-2 vote on a motion that included a provision to present the Metropolitan Planning Organization Advising Committee with an alternate trail route that would have avoided Haile Plantation. The MTPO includes county commissioners and Gainesville city commissioners.

Commissioners Susan Baird and Lee Pinkoson supported the measure while Commissioners Mike Byerly and Winston Bradley opposed it — although Bradley said afterward that he might change his vote. The commission likely will vote again on the trail as part of a budget hearing scheduled for 5 p.m. on Sept. 25.

County staff presented 30 percent design plans at the meeting for the second phase of the trail, which would connect Southwest Archer Road to Tower Road by way of Haile Plantation. The trail, for use by bicyclists and pedestrians, would span this distance by running along 91st Street to 46th Boulevard, from which it would connect with Tower Road.

Haile Plantation residents at the meeting swapped arguments at the podium, where some argued for and some against the proposal.

Mary Alford, 51, said employees who work at her architecture and engineering company, Sustainable Design Group, in the Haile Village Center told her they would use the trail to bike to work.

She started an online petition supporting the proposed trail route Monday morning using signon.org, and it had 295 signatures by Tuesday night. Its listed goal was 300 signatures, but Alford had only expected to get 50 or so when she posted it.

She said the Haile community is definitely divided on the issue. Since she became vocal about her support for the trail in recent months, she said she has even received semi-threatening emails.

But she said she believe that if the county approves the trail as planned, the opposing residents will eventually embrace it.

“They’re going to be happy about it once it’s there,” she said. “I fully believe that.”

Pinkoson said he was concerned about how divisive the issue had become among neighborhood residents.

Residents have attended meetings and repeatedly emailed commissioners about the trail.

Proponents have said the trail would provide a safer way for people to travel, whether they be bicyclists heading to work or children walking through the neighborhood. They also said it would bring business to the Haile Village Center and would increase residents’ property values.

Those opposed to the trail have supported an alternate route that would run from Archer Road directly to Tower Road, which they said is a more direct route. Opponents have said running the trail through Haile would be redundant, since other neighborhood paths already exist.

Byerly said he didn’t understand some residents’ steadfast opposition to the trail since they wouldn’t really lose anything if it were built and those who want the project would gain a lot.

In his 12 years on the commission, Byerly said he couldn’t think of another instance where a community had consciously refused an amenity like a trail or sidewalk.

Baird, however, maintained that the Haile Plantation community did not ask for the trail but rather had it imposed upon them as part of the county’s plan. She also said the alternate route from Archer Road straight to Tower Road was more efficient.

The Archer Braid Trail is planned in phases and could eventually run from the city of Archer to the University of Florida, said Transportation Planning Manager Jeff Hays.

The first phase, running from the city of Archer to Archer Road, is primarily federally funded by the Department of Transportation. However, the Florida DOT is overseeing its design and construction, which is expected to begin later this fall.

The current plan for the trail originated from one that was developed in 2000.

The county is using federal funding to pay for phase two of the project, which was debated Tuesday. The 30 percent plan has a projected cost of $1.2 million. The FDOT has provided $1.5 million in grant money for the county’s project.

Although commissioners deadlocked on whether the trail should run through Haile, they approved in a 3-1 vote, with Baird in dissent, to allow county staff to begin work with a consultant on a 60 percent design plan for the part of the project that doesn’t run through Haile Plantation. The county is on a tight schedule because it needs to present that plan to the MTPO by December.

Plans must be finalized by March 2013 so bidding can begin next summer, Hays said. Construction is expected to begin in fall 2013.

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