City gets input on future transportation, parks, development

Published: Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 9:45 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 9:45 p.m.

A series of roundtable discussions Tuesday evening produced a cross-section of opinions on how city government should approach the future.

Now in its fifth year, the city's "Focus on the Future" forum is intended to gather public input on spending priorities before the City Commission begins summer budget meetings.

The specific topics that a group of some 50 residents and city officials covered at the Gainesville/Alachua County Senior Recreation Center included public safety, city parks, public transit, economic development, and growth and the environment.

One group discussion on transportation produced four poster-sized tearaway sheets of divergent and sometimes conflicting ideas. Some residents said the city needs to continue to develop a series of transportation options and choices and "go big or go home" on the future of bus service. There was the sentiment that the focus needs to be on road resurfacing and repair. Conversely, there was a lack of support for any future tax proposal that puts money only toward roads.

Often, discussion on the different areas of government produced overlapping ideas. Feedback on transportation and economic development both urged better bus service in east Gainesville. Group discussions on economic development and growth and the environment both noted that more employers and shopping opportunities were needed in east Gainesville.

Former City Commissioner Jack Donovan said the eastside "was not experiencing the kind of development we hoped for when Plan East Gainesville was developed."

Summarizing ideas offered on growth and the environment, resident Mary Anderson said one roundtable group sought more mixed-use, walkable developments and the continued protection of green space and environmentally sensitive areas.

Some of the ideas on public safety included more early intervention and working to identify mental health issues at the school level.

On potential options for funding the 20-year master plan for the Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs, resident Amy Grossman said one discussion group favored a sales tax referendum, saying it would spread the burden beyond property owners.

City staff will compile feedback from Tuesday's session to present to commissioners during budget talks for fiscal year 2013-14, Commissioner Lauren Poe said.

All current members of the commission except Mayor Craig Lowe attended Tuesday. Mayor-elect Ed Braddy, who will be sworn in next month, also attended.

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