Brothers pause subdivision plan due to costly study


Published: Monday, October 8, 2012 at 8:26 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, October 8, 2012 at 8:26 p.m.

Former Gainesville Mayor Jim Painter and his brother Jerry have decided to wait before moving forward with a planned subdivision on their Melrose-area property because the county might ask them to pay for a related study they consider too expensive.

The Painters withdrew their request for a special area study of the Melrose Rural Cluster, at least for now, citing concerns about the study’s projected cost.

Alachua County staff received a letter on Sept. 25, written by Clay Sweger, vice president of planning for Eng, Denman and Associates, asking on the Painters’ behalf to withdraw their request.

The commission will be asked to accept their withdrawal at a meeting Tuesday night. Most of the meeting, which starts at 5 p.m., will focus on the second public hearing on proposed changes to the county’s unified land development code, through which it implements its comprehensive plan, and a staff recommendation to add new properties to an Alachua County Forever registry that lists protected public places in the area.

At the commission’s morning meeting, which begins at 9 a.m., commissioners will discuss the search for a new county manager and the local emergence of the West Nile virus.

The Painters’ letter said they also want to know more about a staff proposal for studying all 13 rural clusters, or rural population centers in unincorporated parts of the county.

The commission expressed interest in having the Painters pay for the Melrose cluster study at an August meeting.

The Painters want to build 19 homes in a subdivision on their Melrose-area land but can build only five homes there under current county policy. If the study prompted a boundary change that would include their 28 acres in the Melrose rural cluster, they could build as many as 56 houses instead because higher densities are allowed inside the clusters.

Ben Chumley, senior planner for the county Growth Management Department, said staff expenses to conduct the Melrose rural cluster study would cost about $21,000. Water quality research, to be conducted by an environmental consultant since the Painters’ 28-acre Melrose property includes a canal that feeds into Lake Santa Fe, would cost an additional $17,000.

“It’s an extraordinary price,” Jim Painter said.

He said he was disappointed because he and his brother had offered to pay for advertisements and mailings needed to conduct the study in their proposal. The Painters considered this a fair price for both parties since the Alachua County Comprehensive Plan requires rural cluster studies like the one they had requested.

Painter said he didn’t think it was fair for the county to ask him and his brother, who are interested in studying only their plot of land, to pay for a study of the entire Melrose cluster.

Many Melrose residents are opposed to the subdivision and the study. More than 50 residents came to the August meeting to oppose the Painters’ request.

If the Painters decide to pursue the study, a new public hearing will be necessary, and the county will need to advertise it and mail notices to affected residents.

Contact Morgan Watkins at 338-3104 or morgan.watkins@gvillesun.com. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/morganwatkins26.

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