Major Development May Bring Up To 7,860 New Homes To Northwest Gainesville
Javon L. Harris
The Gainesville Sun
Proposed Weyerhaeuser development.
A major new development could get the green light at the next Gainesville City Commission meeting.
On Thursday, city commissioners will decide whether to approve a proposal that would rezone and change the land use of approximately 744 acres owned by the Weyerhaeuser Company, the country’s largest private owner of timberlands.
The site is located along the east and west sides of State Road 121, just north of U.S. 441. The changes would allow a minimum development of 668 homes and a maximum of 7,860 homes there.
Proposed Weyerhaeuser development.
The City Plan Board voted last month 3-1 to deny the proposal after it had originally voted 2-2.
Regardless of the plan board's vote, however, the proposal is still set to go to the City Commission for consideration Thursday.
The Suwannee St. John's Sierra Club has questioned the proposal, arguing that it "would allow for massive new sprawl in one of the least developed parts of the city."
The city's staff recommendation, however, says otherwise in that the new plan includes a more dense and clustered development that "establishes an efficient and non-sprawling land use pattern that protects wetlands and environmentally sensitive areas."
Weyerhaeuser owns 1,779 acres of undeveloped property, featuring timberlands and wetlands, in northwest Gainesville. The property was originally owned by Plum Creek before Weyerhaeuser acquired it in 2015.
Under Plum Creek, the land had an agricultural land use and zoning, meaning no homes could be built there. The property was eventually annexed into the city limits with the idea of developing the area.
For years, the site posed challenges due to its patches of residential and conservation land use throughout the property, but zoning never changed. Under the city's rules, land use and zoning must be changed in order to build.
The proposal dates to 2017 when Weyerhaeuser asked that about 744 acres of the 1,779 be rezoned from county agriculture to city planned development.
The developer wanted to build what would’ve been, at the time, the largest subdivision in Alachua County with 1,300 homes.
New proposal modified from 2019
In December of 2019, the City Commission voted to deny the rezoning proposal, citing concerns about silvicultural activity near wetlands and an insufficient development density.
Weyerhaeuser has regrouped, now asking that the city approve a modified plan that will preserve wetlands on the property.
The current proposal sets aside 68% of the property from development a substantial part of which is to be managed through a strict conservation management plan, according to the city planning staff, which has recommended approval of the project.
The project would also require the concurrent development of affordable housing together with market-rate units; the installation of community gardens allocated for each unit; and a low-impact-design with clustering, maximization of pervious surfaces, narrowed streets and reuse of storm water.
The City Commission will vote on the new proposal during its upcoming meeting on Thursday, Oct. 6, beginning at 5:30 p.m.
Javon L. Harris is a local government and social justice reporter for The Gainesville Sun. He can be reached by phone at (352) 338-3103, by email at email@example.com or on Twitter @JavonLHarris_JD.