Gainesville OKs campus agreement after delay

The Gainesville City Commission on Thursday approved the Campus Development Agreement with UF after delaying the vote in December over housing concerns.

The Campus Development Agreement (CDA) is part of the university’s master plan update. Required by state law, the CDA helps to address issues in the surrounding community, such as transportation or emergency services, that are created by on-campus changes.

The city approved the CDA 5-0 with Commissioner Desmon Duncan-Walker absent. The CDA, which was set to expire in 2025, is now approved through 2030.

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The city and the Alachua County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) both needed to approve the agreement before February.

The BOCC approved the CDA at a special meeting on Dec. 7. If the city or the county hadn’t approved the agreement, it would have gone to mediation with the state Department of Economic Development.

The city commission was set to give final approval to the agreement at its Dec. 2 meeting, but delayed the vote because of concerns about graduate student housing. Similar concerns had also delayed a BOCC vote in November.

Housing is not one of the elements required to be mitigated in a CDA. Andrew Persons, the city’s sustainable development director, told the commission in December that the city would not be in a strong position in mediation if that’s why they failed to approve the joint agreement.

Graduate student housing in particular has become an issue with the CDA extension because the university is set to demolish Maguire Village and University Village South, which collectively house almost 350 graduate students.

The Save the UF Grad Housing group emailed the city commission and asked them to vote no on the CDA, saying “UF’s Campus Development Agreement plan still contains an element that is tantamount to a violation of the human rights of fair housing, self-determination, open communication, and environmental resource protection.”

The university has said the buildings are not in a condition to be cost-effectively renovated. UF told the BOCC it planned to build an intramural sports field once Maguire Village and University Village South are demolished in the summer or fall of 2023.

Linda Dixon, UF’s director of planning, told the city that the university was in the process of securing private housing to help offset the loss of space from Maguire and University Village South.

Commissioner Reina Saco pushed Dixon to admit Thursday afternoon that the deal for the additional housing was not yet finalized.

“Our intent is to have some additional units available by the fall of this year,” Dixon said. “That is still moving forward. There’s every intent on all parties that we are going forward. We are doing this.”

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