One by one residents of Gilchrist County stood and introduced themselves to their neighbors.
In a meeting of 80 residents in opposition to a planned RV park that will have 374 camping spots, it was clear that local property owners are concerned about what impact a development of that scale will have on the water quality, traffic, and their peaceful lifestyles.
Resident Eddy Scott, a springs advocate and retired FDOT engineer, ran the meeting that was held Sept. 15th at the Spring Ridge Church of God in High Springs. Scott has been serving as the voice of citizens concerned about issues such as the pollution, traffic and noise levels coming from Ginnie Springs.
Before he got down to business, Scott asked, "Are there any County staff present? Any County elected officials?" When no one raised their hand, Scott said, "good," and the room erupted in laughter. Scott explained that it's the elected officials that will serve as the judges of the application for the Special Use Permit (SUP) that would allow the agricultural property to be converted to an RV park.
A public hearing to discuss the proposed RV site known as Pine Ridge RV Park will be considered by the Gilchrist County Board of County Commission on Sept. 21st at 4 p.m.
The application for the SUP was submitted by Gary Dounson of Gary Dounson and Associates, Inc for Aliventures, LLC. The proposal for the overnight RV park includes 374 sites, a swimming pool/clubhouse, a children's game arcade, a general store and sandwich shop, outdoor seasonal farmers market, a gopher tortoise theater, several office buildings and three distributed wastewater treatment systems with a central wastewater collection system to serve the RV sites.
According to the Notice of Public Hearing, the 120 acres are located at the 5700 block of NE SR 47. The property is currently in the Agriculture (A-2) and (A-5) land use category and is located in High Springs but in Gilchrist County. An adjacent 80-acre parcel might also become part of the development. Scott said the goal of the meeting was for the community to develop a strategy to present a well-researched, well-organized united front during the Sept. 21st meeting.
As residents stood and introduced themselves. One described where he lived as, "Ginnie Springs Speedway."
Scott held up a black and white photograph and said, "My wife's great grandfather homesteaded the land there right after the Civil War. This is a picture of my wife's family. Her mom, her grandmother and all of the siblings," he said and about the children playing in the flood waters off State Road 47.
Then he got down to business discussing Gilchrist County boardroom capacity. "We want to get as many people as we can," he said. "We want to try to pack the room."
Scott then explained how an SUP meeting is run since it is a quasi-judicial hearing.
They talked about signs, urged attendees to send emails or letters giving the County Commission reasons to deny the application for SUP 2020-07.
Scott said the latest estimate of the population of Gilchrist County is 17,000 and the RV park would mean 3,000 more. "That's a lot of people."
Resident Bo Davidson said "Before you know it, Ginnie (Springs) and this are going to touch. It's not consistent with what we moved here for," he said, "It's not consistent with what the (comprehensive) plan says."
Former Ginnie Springs employee Rose Meadows stood up and said the RV park would be another draw of people from South Florida. "I want you all to wake up and understand the big picture," Meadows said. "The people from down south are going to love it. We're going to get tourism in this County. We're going to get a lot of bed tax for this County.
"But it escalated this year," she said about South Floridians heading to Gilchrist County and she recounted that Ginnie Springs had to turn people away this year because so many visitors showed up.
Another resident added, "They're going to shop and dine out in High Springs. Not spending their dollars to benefit you and I."
A firefighter stood up and said the local fire station sits unmanned and said that when the RV park and Ginnie Springs start having issues with the extra population, "the increase in numbers, means they need more fire rescue staff."
When Scott asked who at this meeting planned on attending the Sept. 21st meeting with the Gilchrist BOCC, 90 percent of the room raised their hands.