County to hold series of Plum Creek public workshops
Published: Tuesday, July 8, 2014 at 4:25 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, July 8, 2014 at 4:25 p.m.
Before the Alachua County Commission holds hearings on Plum Creek Timber Co.’s sector plan application, the board wants to hear from the public.
Plum Creek has submitted a sector plan application that proposes a long-term master plan of residential and commercial development for about 60,000 acres it owns in eastern Alachua County.
The company’s plan has attracted vocal supporters as well as opponents in the community so far.
County staff is reviewing the application and hopes to have a report completed sometime in August, Senior Planner Missy Daniels told The Sun on Tuesday, so the public workshops will probably begin in September.
While Plum Creek has been holding community meetings for the past couple years, these workshops will be the first time the county hosts meetings on the proposal, she said.
The location for the workshops generated some discussion as Commissioner Susan Baird suggested having a session on the western side of Alachua County since Plum Creek’s proposal would affect the entire county, while Commissioner Charles “Chuck” Chestnut IV said he would prefer to have it on the east side, closer to where the development would go.
“I think it’s important to hear from folks on the east side in terms of what they would like to see,” he said.
The commission decided on two general presentation workshops, one in east Gainesville and one in Hawthorne. Two more workshops, which will focus on natural resources and economic development, will be held in the County Administration Building in downtown Gainesville so they can be televised.
All the workshops will be held in the evening and include staff presentations followed by public comment. Unlike public hearings during which commissioners could take action, the workshops are meant to be informational in nature.
After the workshops, the commissioners will move into the public hearing phase. These sessions will in the County Administration Building and will be televised.
In other business, the County Commission voted unanimously to reject the final settlement agreement proposed by Beazer East that emerged from negotiations regarding the county’s potential cost-recovery claim of about $40,000 in staff time.
The county accrued those costs while staff did work related to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s record of decision for the Koppers Superfund site.
County Attorney Michele Lieberman said staff recommended against accepting the final offer from Beazer East. She also advised against filing suit in federal court.
The county had proposed Beazer East identify, sample and abandon any unused irrigation wells in the area targeted for remediation as an in-kind service to compensate for the $40,000 costs, Pollution Prevention Manager John Mousa said.
Beazer, in turn, offered to identify and abandon the wells but not to sample them, which county staff felt was probably a good compromise.
But Beazer added a release-of-liability clause to the settlement agreement saying the county would release the company from any future liability claim for contamination for which it might be responsible.
The county didn’t agree to that, but that language is still in this final agreement even though it has been modified somewhat, Mousa said.
Remediation has been occurring and only a handful of wells have been identified, so it hasn’t been as critical an issue as county staff thought it might be, he said. They don’t think the benefit derived from the abandonment of perhaps a handful of wells is worth agreeing to give up the county’s potential to pursue future claims.
“It wasn’t worth signing a piece of paper that might limit the county in the future for something they might be doing anyway,” Mousa told The Sun.
Contact Morgan Watkins at 338-3104 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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