Welaunee Comprehensive Plan Amendment Generates Debate About Growth

Welaunee Comprehensive Plan Amendment Generates Debate About Growth

A vote scheduled for May 26 will decide what future growth will look like in Leon County for the next 20-30 years. The vote – which will amend the Comprehensive Plan – had been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, at the end of the last Leon County Commission meeting, Chairman Bryan Desloge made a motion to move the vote to May 26th.

The motion passed 4-3 with support from Commissioners Desloge, Mary Ann Lindley, Jimbo Jackson and Nick Maddox. Commissioners Dozier, Rick Minor and Bill Proctor voted against the change.

The Comprehensive Plan amendments, which must be approved by the city and county, are now scheduled to be taken up at the Joint County / City Transmittal Hearing on Tuesday, May 26 at 6:00 pm.

At issue are amendments that will accommodate future development in the Welaunee Plantation outside of I-10 in an area called the “Welaunee Arch.”

The “Welaunee Arch” is part of the Welaunee Critical Area Plan which was adopted into the Comprehensive Plan in 2002 and annexed into the City 30 years ago. The portions of the “Welaunee Arch” outside of the Urban Services Area (USA) are the only privately-owned lands within the City limits not located within the USA.

One amendment will change the designation of 2,810 acres in the “Welaunee Arch” from rural to planned development. This will allow for commercial development and residential density of up to 20 units per acre.

A second amendment will extend the Urban Services Area (USA) to include the “Welaunee Arch.” The USA includes the undeveloped areas in the City and the County that can expect the availability of urban infrastructure and services, such as roads, mass transit, stormwater facilities, sanitary sewer, solid waste, and parks.

The intent of the Urban Service Area is to 1) promote efficient and compact urban growth; 2) protect the rural character of those areas outside the USA from incompatible uses and densities; 3) assure that local government can afford to provide needed urban services; and 4) make sure that areas designated for urban development are not “under-utilized.”

The Debate

Advocates view the changes as smart planning for future growth. Those against the amendments cite concerns about costs and economic segregation.

Gary K. Hunter, a land use lawyer with Hopping Green & Sams who represents the landowners, says the plan addresses future environmental concerns and meets future needs for traffic, housing, and schools.

In a letter to Leon County Commissioners, Hunter stated that there “has been more than enough misinformation circulating around the proposed comprehensive plan amendments for the ‘Welaunee Arch.'”

Hunter stated that the owners of the property have asked for nothing other than that the lands be properly planned for a future vision. And despite assumptions otherwise, they are not developers and have had no conversations with developers about future development of the Arch.

Those against the amendments, like the environmental group Keep it Rural, argue the move is a “sweetheart deal” struck between the City of Tallahassee and the land owners and will cost the taxpayers $87 million.

In a document distributed by “Keep it Rural”, the group argues that taxpayers are overpaying for the extension of Welaunee Blvd. and for the right of way for the road.

They also state that the projected population growth in Leon County over the next 25 years does not support the need for more development. They note that over 3,000 acres of Welaunee is already within the USA, including all of the land needed for the planned road extensions to Roberts Road and Shamrock, so there’s plenty of room to build.

A group called the Alliance of Tallahassee Neighborhoods, which lists former Tallahassee City Commissioner Debbie Lightsey as a member, states in a position paper, that the “Welaunee amendments represent a huge step in the wrong direction. Their high public infrastructure costs, automobile-dependency, and costly housing continue the status quo clustering of moderate and high income residents in the northeast.”

In the end, the debate is the traditional argument between pro-growth advocates and those who desire a more progressive approach to development.

Advocates say the development has been vetted over the last 30 years. Those against the amendments are raising concerns that are more popular now than 30 years ago and are asking why the rush? On May 26th elected leaders will let their positions be known.

5 Responses to "Welaunee Comprehensive Plan Amendment Generates Debate About Growth"

  1. Avatar
    Franklin Thompson   May 24, 2020 at 9:01 am

    This is about increasing property tax revenue. I am not in favor of development for that sole purpose. However, I noticed that Debbie Lightsey is against it. That, by itself, may change my mind.

    Reply
  2. Avatar
    TONY   May 24, 2020 at 9:06 pm

    OK, This will change the designation of 2,810 acres in the “Welaunee Arch” from rural to planned development and will allow for commercial development and residential density of up to 20 units per acre and you actually think that you can assure that local government will be able to afford to provide needed urban services to ALL THAT? There is no way in hell. You all screwed up big time letting that Development happen.

    Reply
  3. Avatar
    E.   May 25, 2020 at 10:35 am

    Why is this happening instead of developing our central areas and improving the city as a place people want to live in? We dont need another southwood. WE NEED A ROUNDABOUT AT FIVE POINTS IN MIDTOWN.

    Reply
  4. Avatar
    Thomas C. Hooker   May 26, 2020 at 11:28 am

    Well….”Gary K. Hunter, a land use lawyer with Hopping Green & Sams who represents the landowners, says the plan addresses future environmental concerns and meets future needs for traffic, housing, and schools.”

    Guess which one of these people on the Blueprint Citizens Advisory Committee also works for Hopping Green & Sams. There are never any conflicts in Tallahassee over elected leaders, their appointees, nonprofits, or developers. Never.

    http://blueprint2000.org/about-blueprint/committees/citizens-advisory-committee-cac/

    Reply
  5. Avatar
    Shane C Keena   May 27, 2020 at 11:27 pm

    It’s always about the architectural styles as far as development is concerned. If I see another inoffensive, suburbia-style development that looks like an outparcel at a local mall, and a clubhouse that looks like the actual mall, I’m gonna lose it. We need a real, substantial overhaul in the single-family architectural department. That’s where the restrictive codes and covenants and other HOA documents need to be changed to allow for new designs, so it isn’t all boring houses with the bare minimum in terms of detail.

    Now, here is a site of all the styles that need to have a larger presence in the city:
    https://www.concepthome.com/house-plans/modern-houses/

    Reply

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