Hundreds Attend First Night of Alachua County Hearings on Plum Creek’s Plan

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Several hundred people gathered in the Eastside High School auditorium Tuesday night to discuss Plum Creek’s Envision Alachua Sector Plan, or Comprehensive Plan Amendment.

By 10:30 p.m., about 48 residents had addressed commissioners. With about 100 still waiting, the commission called a recess.

They will continue the public hearing on Thursday.

Plum Creek’s plan, if approved by three out of five commissioners, will be transmitted to the state for review.

At the hearing Tuesday, county staff gave its review of Plum Creek’s plan. The recommendation to commissioners? Don’t do it.

“After analyzing policies they proposed, we determined the proposal was not as good as the current comprehensive plan’s policies,” said Michael Drummond, senior planner with the county’s environmental protection department.

Drummond said staff worked on three aspects of the plan: environmental protection, growth management and public works. The three committees collaborated and submitted the final staff review, which was unanimous in its decision not to recommend state transmittal of Plum Creek’s plan.

The commissioners are an elected body and not obligated in any way to follow county staff’s advice.

“If they read the tea leaves differently,” Drummond said, the commissioners can vote however they want.

Tracy Marinello lives in unincorporated Alachua County and close to the land that might be rezoned. She said her major concerns are for water and wetlands.

“We don’t have a lot of water in our aquifer in that area, which is in the Silver Springs shed,” she said. “The land they’re going to develop is not suitable for building because its mostly wetlands. What they’re going to have to do is like really build it up with tons and tons of dirt to make it able to handle that massive amount of buildings and structures.”

Public attendees in support of Plum Creek harped on its promise of bringing jobs to those in East Gainesville through development.

LaKay Banks, 78, sat in the crowd, donning a sticker with a big, bold ‘YES.’ She has lived in East Gainesville for 60 years.

She said she’s noticed jobs are just not found so easily, and Plum Creek’s planned development east of Newnans Lake could help to alleviate that problem.

“At the top, we need better housing, better education, better jobs,” she said. “When you don’t have anything to build on – you can’t.”

Karen Arrington, who spoke at the hearing, doesn’t believe the plan will bring what is promised.

“If you really want to help East Gainesville,” she said. “Then do it in East Gainesville.”

About Briana Erickson

Briana is a reporter for WUFT News and can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing bri.rose561@gmail.com.

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