Developers debate planned overpass for I-75


Published: Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 8:39 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, February 12, 2013 at 8:39 p.m.

The Alachua County Commission meeting Tuesday devolved into a debate between major developers over a planned overpass for Interstate 75.

Representatives for Celebration Pointe, the large, mixed-use development planned for construction off Archer Road near I-75, and Butler Enterprises, which manages Butler Plaza, stood before the dais and debated the details of the I-75 overpass.

During the lengthy conversation, representatives occasionally huddled with their peers to quickly, quietly discuss an issue before approaching the microphone.

County staff initially recommended the board vote to pursue further coordination with the city of Gainesville as it considers Butler Enterprises’ proposed amendment to its comprehensive plan. The city will review it on Feb. 19.

The amendment would, among other things, remove language regarding Butler Enterprises’ dedication of a right-of-way to the city related to the overpass, said Steve Lachnicht, the county’s growth management director.

Staff suggested the commission approve a letter from Commissioner Mike Byerly, who was absent from Tuesday’s meeting, to Gainesville Mayor Craig Lowe requesting such coordination.

The overpass, which would connect the Butler Plaza and Celebration Pointe areas, would land near the plaza and include four vehicle lanes, a segment of the Archer Braid Trail and a dedicated transit lane. It would reduce congestion along Archer Road, Lachnicht said.

“It’s one of the rare opportunities we have to make an improvement to the overall road network,” he said.

Celebration Pointe has developed alternative plans to potentially place the overpass, also referred to as the Southwest 30th Avenue bridge during the meeting, at a different place near the plaza area.

Gerry Dedenbach, who works for Causseaux, Hewett and Walpole and represented Butler Enterprises at the meeting, said the proposed comprehensive plan amendment wouldn’t impact Celebration Pointe’s ability to place the bridge as currently planned.

It would remove related right-of-way language, because Butler Enterprises has such agreements already established with the city, and thus that wording is unnecessary, he said after the meeting.

If Celebration Pointe were to realign the bridge to land on nearby property, it would jeopardize Butler Enterprises’ plans for a Regional Transit System transfer station, he said.

“And again, we don’t care what they build,” he said of Celebration Pointe. “We don’t want them to upset what we’ve planned.”

Jonathan Paul, of Nue Urban Concepts, who represented Celebration Pointe at the meeting, said the development would maintain the current plan for the bridge landing if Butler Enterprises made concessions regarding its dedication of the related right-of-way.

After a brief recess, both parties returned to the meeting with a compromise: Butler Enterprises would convey the right-of-way to the city for the bridge within 60 days of the issuance of a Florida Department of Transportation permit for its construction and of Celebration Pointe Partners posting a performance bond for the project.

The commission eventually approved a revised letter to Lowe informing him of this agreement, which included a couple of other stipulations.

The revised letter also requested city and county staff continue to coordinate on this infrastructure project.

The bridge’s right-of-way remained a point of contention between the two developers as the commission concluded the discussion.

Paul, representing Celebration Pointe, said the current right-of-way of about 90 feet is too narrow to accommodate all the planned transportation lanes, while attorney David Theriaque, of the law firm Theriaque and Spain, said Butler Enterprises isn’t willing to negotiate an expansion.

After the meeting, Dedenbach, representing Butler Enterprises, insisted Celebration Pointe could fit its necessary infrastructure within 90 feet, saying, “Celebration Pointe is trying to get us to accommodate their changed plans.”

Contact Morgan Watkins at 338-3104 or morgan.watkins@gvillesun.com.

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