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Northwest Gainesville development project leaves residents alarmed, though it follows Alachua County's code

A car passes by a mound of tree debris on the cleared Hammocks Reserve property. (Ashley Rodriguez/WUFT News)
A car passes by a mound of tree debris on the cleared Hammocks Reserve property. (Ashley Rodriguez/WUFT News)

Residents are concerned following the total clearance of a 20-acre parcel in northwest Gainesville.

The ongoing development project, Hammocks Reserve, on Northwest 98th Street raised questions about possible flood issues and whether too many trees were removed.

The Alachua County Development Review Committee in January approved a construction permit that would allow over 20 acres of forest area to be cleared for development. The owner, Yadda Property Holdings I, LLC, plans to build 140 single-family houses and additional infrastructure, according to a report by the Alachua Development Review Committee. This project is a subdivision of an overall development plan totaling 116 acres.

Shortly after a large acreage of trees was cut down across the nearby Meadowbrook neighborhood, residents who passed by the area took notice, and some went to the neighborhood social networking site NextDoor to voice their concerns.

Bob Gibson was one resident who made a post on Jan. 31, 2024, prompting a discussion.

“I noticed yesterday that they just cleared more land on 98th street across from the old entrance to Meadowbrook Golf Course,” Gibson said. “Preparing for more unnecessary condos to contribute to the area’s flooding uses and further dilapidation of 98th street.”

The post received 60 comments with mixed opinions from residents about cleared trees, flooding risks, and other conditions of nearby infrastructure.

Flooding is one issue that’s left residents apprehensive, with the tipping point being the disastrous effects of Tropical Storm Elsa in 2021. Some houses were left half-submerged, and the entrance limited anyone from getting in and out. And although county-provided water pumps were part of the solution in the aftermath, it’s clear residents wanted better drainage systems to begin with. Residents like Gibson fear that cutting down trees across the street – which act as a natural barrier to floodwaters – will only worsen flooding.

While some members of the community voiced that this project was unnecessary due to agitating current infrastructure and damaging natural resources, some residents provided a different perspective.

Resident Heather Dyrkolbotn responded to a comment on NextDoor suggesting that Celebration Pointe was one past example of a development project that had set aside numerous acres for conservation.

“But all anyone sees or notices is what gets cleared, not the swaths in conservation,” Dyrkolbotn said.

Virginia Seacrist, 82, also lives in Gainesville and told WUFT in an interview she shares concerns over trees being cleared around the city.

“You go down a road you haven’t been down in one or two months, and there’s a clearcut,” Seacrist said. “I went [down NW 98th street] three days ago, and I was shocked, clearcut.”

Alachua County Forester and Landscape Inspector Jessica Hong provided details on what goes into making sure that this development is following regulations, and most importantly, how trees are preserved under these codes.

The county requires that a minimum of 20% of trees within a property are preserved and that the largest trees – those 60 inches or more in diameter – are also protected, according to Hong.

In Hong’s scheduled inspection that took place on Jan. 11, she said not only did the property meet the requirement, but they exceeded the minimum, preserving 40.5% of trees on the property. Additionally, two of the largest trees on the property remained protected.

Along with the requirements that Hong highlighted, the county’s Development Review Manager Christine Berish said a total of 29 acres were also put aside as a part of the Conservation Area Management Plan for the property.

The county’s staff report about the project further explained these requirements, stating that due to the “high quality, unique and biologically diverse conditions” of the parcel’s northeastern area, other plant and wildlife habitat conditions apply. This means that no more than 25% of the property’s northeastern portion would have to be protected under this designation. The property owners agreed to protect a maximum 25%, or 29 acres of land.

The plan also required that a short non-barbed wire be installed along the perimeter that would allow wildlife to have access but restrict any intrusion from vehicles and other equipment.

“So, there’s the protection of conservation areas, protections of trees, but then they also have to design a subdivision that meets all of our land development regulations,” Berish said.

Tree removal crews cleared space for what will eventually be a residential area alongside the designated conservation area on the northwestern portion of the property. (Ashley Rodriguez/WUFT News)
Tree removal crews cleared space for what will eventually be a residential area alongside the designated conservation area on the northwestern portion of the property. (Ashley Rodriguez/WUFT News)

The report outlines that canopy coverage should be a minimum of 30% – which the property exceeds at 39.16% – and that stormwater management facilities also be appropriately landscaped, which the county development committee also approved.

Berish said she has received a couple of phone calls since the project began, and she had told concerned residents that the property owners are not violating any codes.

“They had a construction permit, so they’re following the steps, and they’re following the rules,” Berish said.

Berish and Hong said residents can stay apprised of major projects like Hammocks Reserve through the county’s required advertisements. Berish said an advertisement would usually run in the Gainesville Sun and, and Hong said they also post signs and do mailings around the area to notify residents.

Additionally, provides an avenue for Alachua residents to search development projects and permits around Alachua County. Berish said that residents can create an account to access the services provided by the website.

“It’s always such a difficult situation,” Hong said. “We’re always trying to balance owners’ rights to develop while also balancing protecting natural resources, and it does look a bit jarring at times.”

Still, Hong said she would encourage residents to call the Development Review when they see anything that brings concern.

She also said public hearings at the county’s downtown Administration Building are one of the ways that residents can comment on developing projects.

Ashley is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing