Newberry moves forward on NC Ranch, Highland Park

Newberry Commissioner Tony Mazon
Newberry Commissioner Tony Mazon expressed concern that NC Ranch, which is set to become one of the largest subdivisions in Alachua County, will not have adequate roads to support traffic.
Photo by Glory Reitz

The Newberry City Commission moved forward on two developments at a special meeting on Tuesday, approving the second reading of NC Ranch and planned development construction plans for Highland Park—formerly known as Newberry Plaza. The commission also approved a preliminary plat for the residential portion of Highland Park. 

The second reading for rezoning 1,293 acres from agricultural to planned development for the NC Ranch project was brought before the commission at a May 13 meeting but tabled to be continued at a special meeting. 

No changes were made to the proposal between the first and second readings, and the commission moved to vote with little delay on Tuesday. Staff addressed a concern originally raised by Commissioner Tony Mazon about the low number of ingress/egress routes for the development. 

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Mazon confirmed with the applicant that the development will be one of the largest subdivisions in the county and maintained his concern that the roads in and out would not support an emergency evacuation. 

NC Ranch is planned to grow to some 4,500 homes over the next 50 years.

Gerry Dedenbach, executive vice president of CHW Consultants, said the roads would be sized according to the amount of traffic they carry. Neighborhoods would have collector roads that connect to arterial roads, which connect to the state highway system. 

Principal planner Jean-Paul Perez said the Florida Department of Transportation is aware that the development will exceed the maximum capacity on US 27/41 and will be a partner in the review of the project’s sequential phases. 

“This is not the only bite at the apple,” Perez told the commission. 

Mazon also asked if the developer could be given impact fee credits for putting in the roads. Mayor Jordan Marlowe said that is very possible, but the real issue would be getting land rights from the nearby ranchers, whose land the road would traverse on its way from NC Ranch to State Road 26. 

After a motion from Commissioner Ricky Coleman, the commission approved the rezoning in a 4-1 vote, with Mazon dissenting. 

The commission also approved a construction plan for Highland Park, the planned development formerly known as Newberry Plaza. The item came before the commission at its last regular meeting on May 13, but city staffers were not quite ready to proceed and asked the commission to move the item to May 28. 

The planned development covers about 128 acres on the south side of SR 26 between SW 242 Street and Newberry Lane. The construction plan encompasses 150,000 square feet of commercial space, while a separate application for a preliminary plat within the same development covers plans for 350 dwelling units. 

Most of the discussion of the commercial development hinged around multiple infrastructure improvements that will come with the development. 

Intersections of Newberry Lane and County Road 235, Newberry Road and Newberry Lane, Newberry Road and proposed east and west accesses, and Newberry Road and County Road 235 will all require changes such as turn lanes and roundabouts. 

The most significant change to the roads would be a traffic light at the intersection of Newberry Road and Newberry Lane. The city has committed $133,000 to the project, and Perez said Publix has offered and reaffirmed $134,000, while Alachua County has offered $133,000 but not reaffirmed. 

As of Tuesday, the developers had also pledged $400,000 on paper, but committed to cover any gaps left in the estimated $1.5 million cost for the traffic signal, which is expected to be necessary because of the planned gas station. 

Staff presented a timeline showing the infrastructure improvements completed by January 2025, at which time construction will begin on the project’s first phase and on a Wawa fueling station. 

A motion to approve the construction plan by Commissioner Monty Farnsworth passed 4-0, with Commissioner Mark Clark recusing himself because he is in negotiations to purchase a house and property that abut the development. 

The timeline is split into only two phases for the housing development. It was originally meant to be seven phases, but the developer cut it to two. 

Marlowe said the developer explained to the Planning and Zoning Board that fewer phases and more houses at a time was necessary to attract national builders for the work. 

The Planning and Zoning Board recommended that the commission approve the preliminary plat, with a change to make the number of phases closer to seven than to two.  

The commission moved forward with a motion from Commissioner Monty Farnsworth to approve the preliminary plat with five phases for the houses, so as not to overwhelm the city’s building staff. 

The vote was, again, 4-0 with Clark recused.

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Ricki Dee

And the water needed for 4500 homes NC Ranch in the next 50 years comes from where?

Ragnar Lothbrook

Wow!Thousands more people,cars, roads,etc. Ain’t it grand?

Concerned citizen of newberry

Nope, sure is not!! And they act like their hands are tied. At least Tony spoke up and asked questions.

Concerned citizen of newberry

Newberry leaders are ruining our town. We have asked to slow down and they say they have no say in it but yet, over and over again meeting are just voting them all in…houses and more houses. We do NOT have the roads or schools for even wh and at we have now!!! By the time we do get new leaders here, it will be too late.

Joan H Carter

Neighborhood schools in the housing project would reduce vehicle traffic! And give kids more exercise as the walk and bike to class!