Butler expansion needs flexibility, plan board told


Published: Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at 11:20 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at 11:20 p.m.

For Butler Enterprises' envisioned town center for the Butler Plaza area, flexibility is key.

It was the buzzword Butler Enterprises representative Gerry Dedenbach, of Causseaux, Hewett and Walpole, returned to again and again at the city plan board's Tuesday meeting, where he presented proposed amendments to the city of Gainesville's comprehensive plan.

Dedenbach emphasized the need for flexibility in the expansion project's design and related regulations in order to develop the town center using creative techniques — a flexibility the amendments would be instrumental in achieving.

The board met Tuesday at City Hall to hear from Butler Enterprises and city staff on the requested amendments. It first approved Butler Enterprises' request for a land-use amendment that added 3.2 acres to the Butler Plaza Planned Use District, or PUD.

City staff recommended its approval because it would lead to better overall design for the expansion project, which centers on the creation of a town center near Archer Road. The town center would allow for interconnected retail combining big stores and small shops with more interesting architecture.

Board member Seth Lane recused himself from the Butler Plaza votes for professional reasons.

A representative who spoke on behalf of U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville, emphasized her support for the Butler Plaza expansion, pointing out that it is easier to lobby for things like infrastructure aid if the project is already under way — a move Butler Enterprises needed the plan board's approval of its amendments in order to take.

Mitch Glaeser, chairman of the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce, also spoke in support of the project.

Deborah Butler, the head of Butler Enterprises, told the board she has visited many town centers gathering ideas for the design and layout of her own.

"My first message to you is that we are ready to go," she said. "We have done our homework."

Butler Enterprises' requested amendments to the comprehensive plan proposed shifting the town center closer to the intersection of Archer Road and 34th Street, as well as other alterations.

City staff advised several changes to the amendments, including maintaining a 20 percent open space requirement for all sub-areas except the town center, which it was fine with lowering to Butler Enterprises' suggested 10 percent level.

One board member questioned one of Butler Enterprises' changes, which would forgo a requirement that off-street parking in a particular area be kept to the side or rear of buildings along certain roadways and instead require the lots be screened to enhance pedestrian comfort and safety.

The board member wondered whether allowing parking lots to be placed at the front of buildings would give the expansion a shopping-center feel rather than a town-center atmosphere. Butler Enterprises representatives insisted it would not do so, but would offer the flexibility it needs as the project's retail plans evolve.

Butler Enterprises also requested the approval of a new planned development, or PD, for Butler Plaza regarding its expansion.

City staff suggested several recommendations, including requiring a main street in the town center.

Additionally, it advised the incorporation of an agreement between Butler Enterprises and the developers of Celebration Pointe — a large, mixed-use development that's in the works — that was reached during last week's Alachua County Commission meeting. The compromise, which was delineated in a letter to Gainesville Mayor Craig Lowe and approved by the commission, provided a way for Butler Enterprises to dedicate the right of way for Southwest 30th Avenue to the city earlier than originally planned. The right of way was related to the overpass for Interstate 75 that Celebration Pointe plans to build.

But Dedenbach said Butler Enterprises and Celebration Pointe met earlier this week and reached a compromise on the landing of the overpass in the Butler Plaza area, which had sparked debate between the two developers at the County Commission meeting.

Celebration Pointe can land the overpass on parcels of property bordering Butler Enterprises' land that it has purchase options on, and then it can connect it to the planned roadway network from there.

"Their plan can exist without conflict with ours," he said, pointing out that their joint solution rendered the earlier agreement regarding the right of way unnecessary.

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

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