County OKs land swap with Plum Creek

The Alachua County Commission on Tuesday authorized the exchange of property with the developer and timber company Plum Creek in a deal that staff said would allow the county to break even.

The commission agreed to give Plum Creek about 38 acres on the south side of State Road 26 in return for 7.5 acres of Plum Creek property on the north side of SR 26.

The county's 38 acres were valued at $122,000, while Plum Creek's 7.5 acres were valued at $37,500. Plum Creek will also pay the county $91,186 to make the agreement equitable for both sides.

A roadway runs through Plum Creek's acreage and enters the county's Balu Forest property, thus permitting unwanted access to that land, according to the commission agenda. The exchange will give the county control of that road.

Commissioner Charles "Chuck" Chestnut IV mentioned the difference in the size and value of the properties being exchanged since the county's property is bigger in both respects.

"How is the county winning here?" he asked.

Acting Assistant County Manager Michael Fay explained that, since Plum Creek would be paying around $91,000 as part of the agreement, the county was "essentially breaking even." Fay also said both properties are zoned for agriculture, which wouldn't need to be changed.

The commission approved the exchange 4-1 with Chestnut in dissent.

The commission also voted Tuesday to move forward with the process of establishing a special assessment district for applying an alternative surface treatment on certain county-maintained, graded roads in the High Springs area, namely Northwest 210th Avenue, Northwest 205th Street, Northwest 218th Avenue and Northwest 202nd Street east of Northwest County Road 236.

The surface treatment work would cost an estimated $220,500, meaning property owners would have to pay an annual property tax assessment of about $320 per parcel, not counting either interest or financing costs, according to the commission agenda. Some property owners own up to four parcels.

Sixty-one percent of the 70 affected parcels stated they were interested in a special assessment district. Sixty percent was required to proceed, and the commission unanimously decided to do so.

Now, the county will do an interest poll. Sixty percent of the affected property owners have to respond, and more than 75 percent must support establishing a special assessment district in order to move on to the next step in the process.

Mable Blake, a property owner in the area who supports establishing a special assessment district there, told the commission she hoped the county could help the property owners cover some of the cost if funding becomes available.

Many of the property owners are on fixed incomes, Blake told The Sun, so any financial support would be helpful.

It's clear the surface treatment is needed, she said, citing dust and potholes as problems. The bumpy ride has messed up the alignment on people's cars, she said.

"It's bad," Blake said. "It's a mess."

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Virginia MacKoul

Virginia is a graduate from the University of Florida's College of Design Construction and Planning with a degree in Sustainability and the Built Environment, and a minor in Urban Regional Planning. Virginia joined the Front Street team in 2011, as an intern. Upon graduation, Virginia joined the Front Street team full-time as the Director of Client Services. Ms. MacKoul’s addition furthers Front Street’s continued growth and expansion within Gainesville and other North Central Florida markets. She was promoted to Director of Marketing in 2014 and now manages the firm’s team of interns and oversees all marketing and branding activity. Virginia was born in Boston and moved to Lee County, Florida in 1997. Virginia graduated her high school's International Baccalaureate program and started at the University of Florida with a focus on Architecture. Virginia shares Front Street's passion of giving back to the community and those in need. Virginia's hobbies include photography, cooking, football, movies, music, and spending time with her dog, Brinkley.

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