Trail will run through Haile after all
Published: Tuesday, December 11, 2012 at 11:06 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, December 11, 2012 at 11:06 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.
The Alachua County Commission reversed a previous vote Tuesday, deciding the Archer Braid Trail will run through Haile Plantation after months of neighborhood controversy.
The debate divided residents of Haile Plantation, a conglomerate of subdivisions where some residents welcomed a new trail and the support it could bring local business while others opposed it as a waste of federal money. The commission approved the Haile route in a 3-2 vote, with Commissioners Susan Baird and Lee Pinkoson in dissent.
The board had two routes to choose from: one that would run from Archer Road to Tower Road through Haile Plantation and another that would connect those roads directly. The Archer Braid Trail will eventually connect the city of Archer to the University of Florida and beyond.
Newly re-elected Commissioner Mike Byerly had asked the board to revisit its September decision to switch to the more direct, non-Haile route in a 3-2 vote with he and former Commissioner Paula DeLaney in dissent.
The 2.2-mile Haile portion will stretch down 91st Street and 46th Boulevard to connect Archer and Tower roads and cost about $750,000 in federal Department of Transportation funds that would otherwise be freed for use elsewhere in the Florida Department of Transportation's multi-county District 2.
Alternatively, the more direct route requires the installation of a quarter-mile section of trail to link already existing paths that's expected to cost about $140,000 — a price the county must pay because that area is ineligible for federal funds, said Jeff Hays, the county's transportation planning manager.
Baird, who owns property in Haile, opposed spending significantly more money on the neighborhood option even though it was federally funded.
The board's Tuesday decision allows both trail sections to be built — the Haile portion as part of the Archer Braid Trail and the quarter-mile segment the county has long planned to establish, Hays said. The commission had to approve the Haile trail segment Tuesday because county staff must meet a March FDOT deadline for construction plans.
Commissioner Robert "Hutch" Hutchinson, who made the motion for the Haile route, also encouraged county staff to work with Haile's homeowners associations on design issues and to develop recommendations for trail maintenance — suggestions that passed unanimously in a separate vote after the 3-2 vote on the Haile route.
About 90 people attended the meeting, where some Haile-route supporters praised Byerly for revisiting the issue while several proponents of the alternative decried it.
Byerly said changing one's mind is the essence of democracy and the situation has changed since the September vote: Two newly elected commissioners, Hutchinson and Charles "Chuck" Chestnut IV, sit on the board.
A previous poll of Haile residents administered by Management Specialists Services, the management company for two Haile master associations, reported a vote of 81.9 percent in favor of the more direct route with a 36.63 percent turnout.
Brianna Kennedy-Lewis, a Haile resident who supports the Haile route, said the ballot wasn't anonymous and had the more direct route marked in red and the Haile option in blue — the Republican and Democratic party colors, respectively.
"The reason you have a low turnout is because it was a laughable vote," she said.
After leaving the meeting, she said she received homeowners association emails urging her to vote for the more direct route.
Dorothy Benson, a Haile resident who supports the more direct route, said she saw no problems with the vote that former Commissioner Winston Bradley requested. She said she doesn't think the Haile option will mesh with the neighborhood aesthetic, which prefers to blend trails with the environment.
"I would ask that you leave the (trail) on Archer Road and Tower Road and don't let the federal money drive this process," she said.
Proponents of the Haile route said it would support local businesses at the Haile Village Center.
"This is going to benefit a lot more people than just the residents of Haile," resident Ray Thomas said.
Some residents advocating the Haile trail said it would improve safety for bicyclists and pedestrians, including schoolchildren attending nearby Kimball Wiles Elementary and Kanapaha Middle schools.
Haile resident Judith Wood suggested the more direct alternative is better for commuters.
"It's not reasonable to expect a bicycle or pedestrian commuter to detour through Haile Plantation rather than take a direct route," she said.
Contact Morgan Watkins at 338-3104 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/morganwatkins26.