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New Blues Creek Utility Line Moves Forward

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(Courtesy of Ecosystem Research Corporation)
(Courtesy of Ecosystem Research Corporation)

The Gainesville City Plan Board voted Thursday night to approve a petition from New Generation Home Builders, Inc., putting the developer a step closer to beginning its desired project.

The developer is seeking permission to place a utility line under Blues Creek to bring power to its planned development.

Blues Creek, a subdivision named after the water feature flowing through it, is located in Gainesville west of NW 43rd Street, south of NW 81st Avenue and north of NW 69th Lane. The entire area is around 300 acres. The planned development is 36.7 acres, and the creek the developer wants to run a utility line through is in a 90.29-acre conservation area.

EDA engineers-surveyors-planners inc., the agent for the developer, gave a presentation on the proposed jack and bore underground installation technique, which will cost more to install but will not impact the surface.

Installation will consist of utility pipes encased in steel to contain leaks with portals for maintenance located outside the conservation area.

Although the board voted 3-1, it also amended the motion, prohibiting the developer to install a lift station if the jack and bore technique fails. Lift stations pump water from lower to higher elevations.

In addition to the proposal of the jack and bore technique, the presentation showed changes that will decrease environmental impact, such as decreasing the number of houses in the development plan from 72 to 44.

The discussion was a continuation from the board’s Jan. 28 meeting, where Sean McDermott, assistant city attorney, outlined the history of Blues Creek, a subdivision named after the nearby water stream.

According to McDermott, in 1987 the Suwannee River Water Management District approved a surface water management permit for the area. In 1988, litigation between the Suwannee River Water Management District, the Conservation Planning Coalition of Alachua County and the developer, decided construction in the 90-acre conservation area was to be limited to nature trails, walkover structures, gazebos and similar structures that don’t impact the area.

Since then, the landowners, Scot Ross and his family, have made a number of efforts to change the status of the land. In 2001, an Eighth Judicial Circuit judge ordered the landowner to restore some wetlands based on county ordinances. Shortly after, the property was annexed into Gainesville.

In 2008, the City Commission denied the landowner’s request for plat approval due to the zoning regulations in place.

In 2011, the landowner returned to the Eighth Judicial Circuit on different grounds and again lost the case. In 2013, the District Court of Appeals affirmed the lower courts judgment, asserting that zoning needs to change before a plat can be approved.

Sergio Reyes, president of EDA engineers-surveyors-planners, inc., said Thursday’s decision is just another step.

“There’s a very long process to be followed through the city rules,” Reyes said.

He said the City Commissioners will vote next, and he will present the application again at that meeting.

According to Andrew Persons, principal planner for the city, the petition will likely be on the city commission agenda sometime in April.

Michael Turco, a Blues Creek resident, said the developer received benefits from the 1988 agreement but is trying to reverse it due to issues in getting utilities to the area it is planning to develop.

“If he had had the foresight to plan ahead and deal with that area differently, then he wouldn’t have boxed himself in, and he’s now asking the city and other organizations – governmental organizations – to make changes so that he’s able to build and get himself un-boxed in that area,” Turco said.

Turco said 211 people have signed a form letter objecting to the pending zoning changes.

Francine Robinson, 91, is a founder of the Conservation Planning Coalition of Alachua County, the organization that made the agreement with the developer in 1988.

“I think that tonight, a lot of time went for the developer’s technological people to address various aspects that they wished to address, but it didn’t address the fact that what they want to do, no matter if it’s different from what they offered another time, it may not construct any kind of pipeline, any kind of building, no construction whatsoever in that area and no disturbance,” she said.

 

About Elise Engle

Elise is a reporter who can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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