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Friday, April 01, 2005

Quadruple Standard

The Gainesville Sun opines today that the Alachua County Commission has set a double standard by making it difficult for Gainesville to annex county land while letting the other small cities do it with "a wink and a nod".

What is not mentioned in this editorial is the differing nature of these two types of annexation.

In Gainesville's case, the city wants to annex urban areas just outside its boundaries that logically fit within the boundary of urban services that Gainesville is best suited to provide. The county opposes these annexations because they involve properties that provide a lot of tax revenue to the county. Haile Plantation is a good example.

In the case of towns like Alachua and Newberry, annexations are almost entirely giant land grabs of undeveloped lands that development-friendly town councils want to make available for development. The County Commission winks and nods at such annexations because most county commissioners are in the pocket of the local real estate development community.

There is also a political difference at work – Gainesville's commission, when compared to those in the other cities in Alachua County, are far more likely to be concerned about growth management and its many related issues. In towns like Alachua, where I was the deputy city clerk for a year, such concerns are not merely ignored, they are denounced as a communist plot.

The confluence of pro-development politicians, anti-regulation rhetoric, money and voter ignorance make for a scary world when it comes to growth management. At least three of the five county commissioners feed off this confluence.

Here is the future in Alachua County: Alachua and Newberry will continue to recklessly approve any and all development proposals without paying attention to the impacts on our road system, on existing residential developments, or our environment. The land areas of those two towns are each as large as Gainesville, except that for the most part they are farmlands ripe for development. With state lawmakers eager to find grants to help these communities build the water and sewer infrastructure needed to grow, and with town councils treating any growth management proposal as sin, these towns will soon be sprawling messes of residential, commercial and industrial development that connect to Gainesville on its west and north ends.

You never read editorials in The Sun opposing this, because the newspaper is as much a part of this problem as anything. The paper consistently opposes politicians who want to regulate growth or make it pay its own way, and it always supports politicians who say they will put economic development first.

Unless The Sun decides to support sound land planning, then its complaints about double standards are hypocrisy.

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