The Alachua County Commission met Thursday to discuss the Alachua County Comprehensive Plan update, something local governments are required to do every seven years.
One of the fundamental things in the comprehensive plan is the urban cluster, which is the boundary for urban growth within the unincorporated county, said Ben Chumley, senior planner for Comprehensive Planning for the Alachua County Growth Management Department.
The urban cluster serves to direct growth to a specific area, as opposed to allowing people to develop land anywhere in the county. It’s a boundary set to direct urban development from growing in the borders of the county.
The unincorporated county Chumley referred to is undeveloped land in the area of Alachua county that is not in one of nine incorporated, or developed, cities, such as Gainesville and Newberry.
Chumley said the debate is about whether or not the urban cluster is large enough to accommodate for the population growth being projected for the unincorporated area over the next 20 years.
The growth management department staff used population projections from the UF Bureau of Economics and Business Research to predict the demand for this growth.
Not all the commissioners were in agreement on the population projections and urban cluster capacity. Commissioners Lee Pinkoson and Mike Byerly took different stances.
Byerly said the urban cluster has always been a politically debated subject.
“People who have cow pastures or land, they want to develop out in the boonies, want us to move the line all the time so they can develop. People who live out there and really don’t want the city coming in their backyard constantly want to hold the line back,” Byerly said.
Byerly supports leaving the urban cluster line where it is.
“The staff showed us that there’s ample development capacity and room for growth over the next 20 years, where the line is right now,” Byerly said.
Pinkoson is concerned with getting accurate numbers to determine the growth rate. He believes the projections should be based off historical numbers. He said the population projection numbers being provided through the BEBR are lower than numbers the past would project.
“If we know that something has been happening pretty consistently from a historical perspective, why wouldn’t we use that as opposed to using some lower number,” Pinkoson said.
Byerly says the BEBR’s numbers are the most reliable standard to use.
“They’re the professionals, and they’re the experts on projecting population growth,” Byerly said.
The growth management department staff will be doing further analysis on both the historical and the BEBR numbers in preparation for discussion at a future meeting.