High Springs OKs 120-unit development agreement

The High Springs City Commission approved a development agreement and zoning change for a new 120-lot development off of US Highway 441 that looks to increase housing without building cookie-cutter homes.

The development plans to build just east of NW 218th Terrace on the north side of US 441, and Kim Fischer, with Cycorp Engineering, lnc., said the project will likely lose five lots as it proceeds.

She said the development will exceed the current city code in many areas, adding a 10-foot barrier with other properties where none is required and planning for fewer houses than required.

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The project will have both 50- and 60-foot wide lots with a minimum house square footage of 1,500.

Ashley Stathatos, High Springs city manager, said city staff worked closely with the developer on the agreement that includes many aesthetic requirements.

The development, called Fairfield Oaks Subdivision, will contain 20-foot setbacks to the road and a 20-foot backyard with a minimum of 5 feet between houses.

The development must use a minimum of 10 different façade elevations along with different architectural elements in order to vary the house styles. Some houses will be single story while others have a top floor. 

The agreement also stipulates that houses can only repeat the same façade every fourth house, and identical facades can’t face each other or be caddy cornered. 

Stathatos told the commission that the subdivision will have a 50-foot buffer with US 441 with required minimums of shrubs and landscaping. The developer agreed not to clear cut the property.

The commissioners appreciated the work to prevent copy and paste houses.

“I can envision that as this goes through the planning and development and you work it out, that it really will be a community that has some character to it,” Commissioner Ross Ambrose said at the meeting. “We know there’s going to be growth. We know there’s going to be homes coming. If it’s going to happen, I don't want it to be cookie cutter like I see in other places.”

However Commissioner Kathrine Weitz said people come to High Springs for space to live, not packed housing.

“The 50 and 60-foot lots are what you find in large metropolitan areas not here, and I just don’t support such small lot sizes,” Weitz said. “You can go to Newberry right now and talk with them about their buyer’s remorse on going with lot sizes like that.”

Other developers have proposed as small as 40-foot wide lots, and Commissioner Linda Jones said the city had to work to move away from that type of project. While only an extra 10 feet, Jones said the proposed subdivision moved in the right direction.

Fischer said not everyone has the same preferences. Many homeowners prefer a low maintenance lawn and can’t afford the expense of an acre or half acre lot.

“It’s an individual preference,” Fischer said. “This subdivision wouldn’t be a subdivision you would buy in.”

Weitz said the development won’t lack for buyers in the current market, but questioned its fit in High Springs. She voted for the development plan but was the lone dissent against rezoning to a planned development.

“It’s not going to matter how pretty they are to me if they’re right on top of each other,” Weitz said.

The current neighbors to the north also brought up concerns. They use the agricultural land to raise and butcher animals, and they said some people might not want to see, hear and smell all that goes on.

Fischer said buyers take into consideration the surrounding properties, adding that you can’t control your neighbors but where you live.

“Even if they didn’t have a purple house with polka dots today, they still have the right to do a purple house with polka dots tomorrow,” Fischer said. “I think that’s inherent with anytime you have a neighbor.”

She said the development, along with the 10-foot buffer, would add a 6-foot fence to all properties along the northern property line. The potential buyers could also be told in case they had reservations.

The development will use city water and sewer, but High Spring’s Wastewater Treatment Plant is closing in on its capacity. So the development agreement acknowledges that the city can stop issuing building permits at any time until the new plant is ready.

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Sandra Gardner

Gopher tortoises are a threatened wildlife species and are protected by state law, Chapter 68A-27, Florida Administrative Code. Gopher tortoises must be relocated before any land clearing or development takes place, and property owners must obtain permits from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission before they can move them.

This is a copy/paste statement from the Florida Fish and wildlife Conservation. I attended the meeting that was held to vote for the rezoning of this land. At no time did the concern for the Gopher Tortoises come up. Has the High Springs City Commission contacted FWC to have the land checked for the presence and possible relocation of the tortoises prior to the clearing of the land?

If it is the responsibility of the builder or purchaser of the property, I would appreciate the contact information so that I can ask them. Sadly, my trust in government and large companies who's priority is money as opposed to the well being of the residence, gives me the feeling that the possibility that this little concern may have been forgotten.