Envision Alachua a good plan


Published: Wednesday, June 25, 2014 at 2:19 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, June 25, 2014 at 2:19 p.m.

I have been a consultant to Plum Creek for nearly five years and I am convinced that Envision Alachua is good for Alachua County and this region.

Plum Creek convened a diverse group of citizens to tell Plum Creek how its property should be utilized. Throughout my many years of involvement in the city and county, I had never heard of a group of citizens working together to determine land use for a project of this magnitude.

I was excited by the potential of the creation of jobs that could have a huge positive impact on east Gainesville and eastern Alachua County.

Now that the plan has moved from Phase I to Phase III, many folks are as equally excited. But like other projects that have targeted east Gainesville and eastern Alachua County, there are those who would rather see this plan not come to fruition. They have filled the print and social media with everything from inaccurate information to unsupported data and scare tactics. It appears that the only time we hear from many of these folks is when there appears to be something good planned for east Gainesville or eastern Alachua County.

As a kid growing up, I often wondered where the good folks were who didn't live in my neighborhood when a portion of the campus of Williams Elementary School was a dump. Landfill is too nice a word. A landfill that was less than 25 yards from the back door of Williams and less than a 100 yards from my high school, Lincoln High School.

During our football practices breathing the stench from the site. Worst yet, our home was no more than 100 yards from the site and we had to endure that smell throughout the night. We never heard from the "concerned citizens" who care so much about our environment.

And by the way, the landfill was not lined and I'm sure those who are up on environmental regulations know what that means. The leachates were going straight down into the aquifer. I wonder if this would have been tolerated in west Gainesville. Now they appear to know what's better for east Gainesville and eastern Alachua County than the folks who live in these areas.

I also have to wonder about the socially conscious who purport to be concerned about a quality of life for us all. I have yet to hear any of them speak out regarding the poverty rate of 30 percent or the median family income of $28,000 in east Gainesville. To add insult to injury, Gainesville ranks No. 5 nationally in income disparity. Do these folks who care so much about quality-of-life issues really care?

Those who are anti-Envision Alachua/Plum Creek can afford to be. Many of them are well off financially, have good jobs or are comfortably retired. They extoll their quality of life and enjoy the prosperity that many who live in east Gainesville and eastern Alachua County can only wish for.

During my tenure at the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce, the East Gainesville Development Task Force was birthed. Its membership included citizens, business owners and officials. The mission was: "The east side of Gainesville will become a thriving business, residential and cultural center that serves its communities by providing goods and services to its residents, increasing business startups and expansions and broadening employment opportunities which will improve the overall quality of life."

That was in 1997. What happened?

Through Envision Alachua, this mission can become the reality that the folks in east Gainesville, Hawthorne and all of eastern Alachua County so desperately desire and need.

Albert E. White

Lifelong citizen of Gainesville

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