West End redevelopment application set to expire

The application that would allow a developer to build 487 residential units on the defunct West End Golf Course expires tonight at midnight.

As of noon Monday, Alachua County Senior Planner Jerry Brewington said he has not heard back from applicant JBrown Professional Group, which submitted the application on July 27, 2020, on behalf of Tara Club.

That application fee was $10,980 for the combined land use and rezoning. It included a base fee of $9,000 plus $30 for each acre over 10 acres of the 75.18 property owned by real estate agent Peter Min.

Since the application last year, a group of residents at the Villages of West End, plus neighboring residents in Arbor Greens and Tioga, have gathered regularly to organize their opposition to taking away a green space they say is needed to offset rapid development in the area. Along the way, they’ve picked up some key backers, including state Sen. Keith Perry

The group known as Friends of West End launched the West End Community Alliance for Recreation and Education (WECARE). The nonprofit has raised more than $20,000 to cover legal fees and organized two protests along Newberry Road in front of the course. 

A spokesperson for WECARE, Paul Hornby, who is also a golf instructor and an advisory board member for the Gator Junior Golf Association has been keeping residents affected by the potential development up to date through meetings. 

On Friday at a clubhouse at Villages of West End, two dozen residents met with WECARE organizers to hear the latest.

According to Hornby, the biggest roadblock for a development will be how to get all of those extra vehicles out of a development without dumping them all on Newberry Road.

Chris Dawson, Transportation Planning Manager for Alachua County’s Growth Management, reported via email on May 4, that the county has “proposed language to be included in the Comprehensive Plan that would require the applicant provide a full functional connection (meaning one that provides for vehicular, pedestrian and bicycle modes) to the surrounding roadway network prior to redevelopment that results in more than 550 daily trips.”

That number, according to Dawson, is equivalent to “the past golf course use according to the Institute of Transportation Engineers Trip Generation handbook.

“Staff has not identified a specific location where this connection would need to be provided, and the location is not required to be determined at the Comprehensive Plan Amendment stage,” Dawson added.

Hornby echoed that the interconnectivity would be a key issue that needed a solution in order for the application to succeed.

“They painted a picture of having multiple ways of getting in and out of the development,” Hornby said. “If all they have is one or two coming out on Newberry Road, the application will be denied.”

Hornby projected a map of the area on a screen and showed meeting attendees where potential extra road exits might be pursued by the developer. The only solution he noted would be coming out of the north end of West End.

“Picture 700 homes and people cycling back around through your neighborhood through Arbor Greens,” he said.

Brewington said JBrown’s options are to “proceed, and then we would start reviewing it again, or they could withdraw and submit it again at a future date. The ball is in their court.”

Brewington said that as a professional courtesy the county has reached out to JBrown to remind the company of the deadline to act on the application and as of noon on Monday had not received a response.

“We have reached out to the applicant,” he said. “But we have not heard back from them yet.”

This story has been updated to reflect that the Friends of West End is still an active group.

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