R&B 94.1

Newberry board moves development of 220 ag acres

A 220-acre planned development will move forward to the Newberry Commission after the planning and zoning board approved it Monday night.

Board member Gavin Johnson made the motion with an added stipulation that the applicant, developer Gary Weseman of Tanglewood Properties in Gainesville, adhere to design corridor standards that the city is still finalizing. 

The parcels involved in the application were approved to move forward with both a zoning and future land use map change from agriculture to planned development.

Ryan Thompson, a senior land planning project manager with CHW Professional Consultants of Gainesville, represented the application on behalf of Weseman, who was not present.

The proposed development would entail 750 homes to be built at a pace of about 50 a year. The development would sit behind future businesses that would go up along the south side of Newberry Road. The parcels are located adjacent to two parcels across from Destiny Community Church, to which the Newberry City Commission gave the go ahead last week to change from agricultural to commercial.

Several board members, residents and a business owner spoke about concerns that the development would increase traffic and overload already crowded schools. Some voiced concerns that the loss of more agriculture acres will change Newberry.

Tropic Traditions Wholesale Nursery owner James Flemming said he knows development is inevitable, but urged board members to be strategic and suggested wider buffers between housing and businesses like his.

“I came here to escape,” Flemming said about moving to Newberry from South Florida. “I would like to see smart development, green areas around the nursery.”

He asked that the developer not “slam houses right up to the back of the nursery” because of the noise tractors make and previous complaints made about smoke and spraying chemicals.

“We do everything according to the law,” Flemming said about operating his business. “But that doesn’t stop people from complaining.”

Newberry asked residents to take part in a visioning process and received input for increasing design standards along the Newberry Road corridor, but the commission is several months away from finalizing the policies that will create a zoning overlay.

According to Mayor Jordan Marlowe, that overlay will have higher standards for home building, entrance ways, landscaping, roads, sidewalks, curbs, gutters and will also address HOAs with taxing units for road repair.

Bryan Thomas, Newberry’s planning director, addressed citizen concerns about a potential population increase and strain on the three Newberry schools.

Thomas said the average household is 2.54 people, according to the Bureau of Economic Research with the University of Florida, which would add up to 1,900 additional residents to Newberry over a 20-year period from this planned development.

“The school board tells the city the multiplier,” Thomas said about planning for growth. “Seven hundred fifty units is 105 elementary students over a 20-year period.”

The school district multiplier suggests that the development would add 45 middle and 60 high school students to the local area. That gives the school board time to add capacity, he said.

The board voted 3-1 to send the planned development proposal to the commission, with Jessica Baker voting against and Donald Long absent.

Thomas explained if the commission approves the development that the next steps for the project to progress would involve a future land use map change that involves state agencies because it is a large-scale planned development. The project would advance on a phase by phase basis.

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