High Springs updated on 2,000-unit development

High Springs City Hall
High Springs City Hall. (photo by Seth Johnson)

The High Springs City Commission received an update Thursday on a potential 2,000-unit subdivision that would build on 686 acres on the south side of the city and include single-family homes, multifamily dwellings and even senior living facilities.

The land already has an approved planned development from 2005 along with a suburban residential density, allowing one to four units per acre. But JBPro, a Gainesville-based civil engineering firm, began engaging with the city over a year ago to revise the plan on behalf of the owner. 

The city scheduled Thursday’s meeting as an update with no actual decision. The development will return in the next couple of months for a final vote, but commissioners expressed concern from the dais. 

“We need to grow, absolutely, as a city, but I think growth with this kind of density would be profoundly irresponsible for us,” Commissioner Katherine Weitz said at the meeting. 

Located just east of State Road 45 near the Tillman Acres neighborhood, the original plan called for 2,500 units with 742 40-foot lots, 1,294 50-foot lots, 250 60-foot lots, 197 70-foot lots along with multifamily, age-restricted and senior living facilities. 

Christopher Potts, director of civil engineering for JBPro, said they eliminated the 40-foot lots and added 80-foot lots after speaking with High Springs staff last year. However, the unit amount would have stayed at 2,500, giving a 3.6 unit-per-acre density.

Christopher Potts, director of civil engineering for JBPro, speaks to the High Springs Commission
Courtesy City of High Springs Christopher Potts, director of civil engineering for JBPro, speaks to the High Springs Commission.

After further discussion, a second revised concept eliminated the 50- and 60-foot lots as well, adding 100-foot lots and dropping the unit cap to 2,000. JBPro will submit this version to the city. This version keeps the multifamily, age-restricted and senior living facilities.

Potts said the goal is to create a community. The current plan includes parks every half mile with pools, playgrounds and other amenities, many open to the public. 

“It’s not just a subdivision itself,” Potts said. “It’s not just density; it’s not just a lot of people. It’s coming in to be a part of the community, to give additional parks, additional support for the city.”

The development also includes more than 10% open space—the legal requirement. Potts said the proposed community’s stormwater retention ponds don’t factor into the open spaces calculation either. 

The developer agreed to give Alachua County Public Schools a 31-acre parcel in the northeast corner of the land to use for a future elementary or middle school. Potts said the financial development of a school would fall on the district, but the owner would donate the land. 

Weitz said the development represents a new look for the city. She highlighted Tillman Acres, a neighborhood that borders a portion of the proposed development and has lots with 1 or 2 or more acres. 

“Just look at the parcels around this proposed subdivision,” Weitz said. “The contrast to me is very stark.” 

Potts said homeowners continue to trend toward smaller lots due to both expense and maintenance reasons. Everyone knows Alachua County continues to grow, he said, but Gainesville has run out of room and prices are climbing.

That growth has begun building up cities like High Springs, Alachua and Newberry. The High Springs commission approved a 120-unit development off of SR 441 in May. 

Commissioner Linda Jones said those areas may be growing but not all citizens appreciated the increase in people. 

“They’re growing, but if you talk to people about it, they’re not happy about it at all,” Jones said. “That’s what we’re experiencing.”

She said citizens already ask if the commissioner hears them and their concerns over housing. 

Commissioner Ross Ambross said he’d like the development to commit to who its builders would be and present more examples of the landscaping plans. 

Potts said all the builders will be local and showed proposed homes styles from three potential builders. He added that native Florida landscaping will be used to counter heavy irrigation use.

“We’re not looking for cookie-cutter homes,” Potts said. “We want different standards throughout so that it can be a really inviting feeling for the neighborhood.”

Mayor Byran Williams said roads remain his biggest concern. Many public commenters also emphasized roads.  

Once approved by the city, the developers would complete an assessment with the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) because of SR 45. A road assessment would then determine what modifications need to happen. 

Potts pointed out that the subdivision would develop over 20 years or so, meaning impacts from 2,000 units would not occur suddenly. 

“The one thing you have to look at, though, is the future land use allows 1-4 units per acre, so with a large acreage itself, that’s where the density number is kind of shocking,” Potts said. 

Even with 686 acres, the density seems high for some. During a question portion, Weitz asked if the developer could cut the units in half.

JBPro architectural house styles - High Springs
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Chuck Finley

Wow, lets not learn anything from Newberry or Gainesville…..just continue the same irresponsible sprawl that has hammered rural Alachua county. Bravo, people.

Nancy Dvorachek Brewer

I am not a resident of High Springs, but I go to church and use the library there, as well as having enjoyed shopping and recreational activities for more than 40 years. I question the effects of so many units on the water table, traffic, and the delightful small-town ambience.