County: No trail through Haile
Published: Tuesday, September 25, 2012 at 10:37 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, September 25, 2012 at 10:37 p.m.
Correction: Management Specialists Services is the management company for the Haile Plantation Association and Haile Plantation West Association, while Premier Management Associates manages the Haile Village Center Owners Association. A story published earlier in The Sun misstated who managed the three associations.
After dozens of emails and a neighborhood poll, the Alachua County Commission decided in a 3-2 vote Tuesday that the Archer Braid Trail will not run through Haile Plantation.
Commissioners Mike Byerly and Paula DeLaney voted against the motion to halt plans for the Haile portion.
About 60 people attended the evening meeting, which included a public budget hearing. Most came to discuss the trail, and some wore red shirts to show their opposition to the planned Haile Plantation section.
The 2.2-mile portion would have stretched down 91st Street and 46th Boulevard to connect Archer Road and Tower Road as part of the Archer Braid Trail, which is planned to run from the city of Archer to the University of Florida and beyond.
The Haile Plantation section, like the first phase of the Archer Braid Trail connecting the city of Archer to Archer Road, would have been federally funded by the Department of Transportation.
It would have cost about $750,000, but that money could now be used elsewhere in the multi-county district, Transportation Planning Manager Jeff Hays said in a previous interview.
County staff will work on a plan for an alternate route, supported by opponents of the Haile trail, that will connect Archer Road and Tower Road directly.
It will require the addition of a quarter-mile piece of trail that will cost about $140,000, which the county will likely need to pay for because Gainesville Regional Utilities owns the area and it probably won't be eligible for federal money.
Management Specialists Services, the management company for two master Haile Plantation associations, held a poll of commercial and residential property owners on which route — the planned one through Haile Plantation or the more direct one to Tower Road — they preferred.
People could cast a vote for each property they owned, but homes with multiple residents could cast just one vote.
For the poll, 930 of the 1,010 votes received were valid. It had a 36.63 percent turnout.
The direct route from Archer Road to Tower Road won with 762 votes, or 81.9 percent.
The planned route through Haile Plantation received 168 votes, or 18.1 percent.
The Haile Plantation Association, Haile Plantation West Association and Haile Village Center Owners Association were involved in the poll, and within each one voters preferred the direct route overall.
Byerly cautioned against making a decision based on an informal neighborhood poll, which could set a precedent in which such votes would need to be considered when ruling on any county project.
It would bring the capital improvements process to a "grinding halt," he said.
He also questioned whether the commission could believe the vote was fair since the organizations involved have been clear about their opposition to the Haile trail option.
He said the homeowners associations had deliberately injected misinformation about the trail early on in the process.
Commissioner Winston Bradley said he requested the vote, which in hindsight may not have been wise. But he'd said he would vote in accordance with the results and did so.
"So my honor is on the line because that's what I promised I would do," he said.
Dorothy Benson, a Haile resident opposed to the neighborhood route, said the poll allowed less vocal residents a chance to offer their opinions.
Benson, who opposed the Haile route, also said the associations did what they were supposed to by informing property owners about important changes coming to the community.
Katherine Henderson, a Haile Plantation resident who supported the neighborhood route, said the commission was giving the poll, which she thought was biased, too much weight.
"It's an example of ‘not in my backyard,' and it's sad to see from a diverse community..." she said of those who opposed the Haile trail.
A few others at the meeting also said the poll was biased.
Morgan Attwood, a Haile resident in favor of the neighborhood route, said the associations had created a propaganda campaign against the plan.
He said he attended an informational meeting earlier this year where the sign-in sheet was actually a petition against the Haile route.
Contact Morgan Watkins at 338-3104 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/morganwatkins26.