WUFT News

Envision Alachua Inches Closer With Help From Private Landowner

By and on October 31st, 2013

Residents of Alachua County will soon find out how they will benefit from the development plan community leaders spent more than two years creating.

Envision Alachua, the vision of the 50-year master plan for the development and conservation of land in East Alachua County, will become a physical element at the end of 2013.

Plum Creek Timber Company, Inc., a landowner that holds about 65,000 acres in Alachua County, plans to submit the application to the county in mid-December.

Plum Creek’s partnership with the 35-member task force, which includes leaders from many areas of the community, are focused on three key aspects for Envision Alachua: economic development, community development and environmental conservation.

At the final task force meeting Wednesday to end the second phase of the plan, Plum Creek employees discussed the goals for the Envision Alachua Sector Plan, which is the two-part process detailing the future framework of the land.

The plan aims to achieve a jobs-to-housing balance of three jobs per employed resident and to set aside land for efficient operations, allowing one home per five acres.

While the primary focuses are economic development and conservation, the plan includes residential areas so people can live close to work.

Greg Galpin, senior manager of planning for Plum Creek, said the need for community input led to creating the task force, and Plum Creek invited members to look at its entire ownership and to speak on behalf of the community in deciding what to consider for development.

“(This) is an opportunity for Alachua County really to participate in being able to conserve an additional 24,000 acres that will never be developed while allowing development to occur where it’s appropriate,” he said, “which is somewhere within the 16,000-acre track.”

Galpin said as the planning entered its second phase, a technical advisory group was incorporated into the process to help distinguish which areas were better for development and where appropriate development can occur.

Information from the technical advisory group was then reported back to the task force to ensure plans still remain within the vision’s guidelines.

Phase three, which will start in 2014, will focus on the two detail-specific area plans with a goal to continue to broaden community outreach.

Plum Creek is focused on agriculture and the protection of the rural character of all of the adjacent communities, Dr. Daniel Iacofano, Envision Alachua process facilitator, and Tim Jackson, director of real estate for Plum Creek, said during the presentation.

They said Hawthorne’s assets include industrial land, recreation and a rural lifestyle, and it is conveniently located by crossroads of North Central Florida with access to transportation.

The development plan might also include educational facilities such as a job training center, a community college campus and a University of Florida facility.

Programs or initiatives being developed are going to directly impact residents of East Gainesville, Dr. Karen Cole-Smith, executive director of community outreach and The East Gainesville Instruction, said. Cole-Smith is a member on the task force representing Santa Fe Community College.

“I want to be a part of that because I want to make sure those residents of East Gainesville are informed about any new programs or initiatives that we are going to provide,” she said.

The Envision Alachua Educators Committee, a group of current and retired education professionals, will have discussions on how to align K-12, improve public schools to prepare students for the upcoming jobs and partner with Santa Fe College and UF, Rose Fagler, manager of community relations for Plum Creek, said.

Cole-Smith said the younger generations should be represented and informed because they will be the ones affected by the job growth in the future.

“That’s why we need that younger cohort of people to be the active participants and (ones) who are actually carrying out the project,” she said.

The Envision Alachua process has included a variety of community participation and informational activities including guided tours of Plum Creek lands, community workshops and educational forums.

Two community workshops concerning developer plans are being held at the MLK Community Center on Dec. 2 and at Chester Shell Elementary School on Dec. 7.

Heather Surrency, realtor and resident of Hawthorne, has been following the process since the beginning and said because the area has been stagnant for so long, the Hawthorne community is ready for the development to begin.

“I think that Plum Creek has done a wonderful job of getting the diverse group from every spectrum,” she said.


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