The Process of Changing Our Comprehensive Plan

This section describes how and when this will all play out.

All new development in the unincorporated portion of Alachua County must adhere to the County’s adopted Comprehensive Plan (CP.) The Alachua County Commission may amend the CP at any time, either on its own initiative, or at the request of a private party.

Florida law provides for “substantial geographic areas that include at least 15,000 acres” to be developed according to a Sector Plan. Sector Plans are intended to promote “long-term planning for conservation, development, and agriculture on a landscape scale… to facilitate protection of regionally significant resources”… and “to emphasize urban form and protection of regionally significant resources and public facilities”. Plum Creek is seeking its own Sector Plan, which would include over 200 changes to the county’s existing CP. They submitted their formal application on Dec. 12th. Very few Sector Plans have been adopted in Florida, and none in Alachua County.

 Sector Plans have two steps: first, the adoption of a long-term master plan for the entire Sector Plan area in the form of an amendment to the County’s Comprehensive Plan, then second, adoption of two or more detailed specific area plans (DSAPs) of at least 1,000 acres within the Sector Plan, in the form of “Planned Developments.”

The first step, the long-term master plan, is broad and conceptual, providing the scope, nature, and general location of development, along with development guidelines like the size of wetland buffers. The second step, the DSAPS, provides greater specificity, down to the level of roads, lots, and boundaries of conservation areas. The first step provides the County absolute discretion to deny or change the application, but the second step would legally prohibit the County’s ability to deny or decrease the intensity of the application, and greatly restrict its discretion to make changes. Stand By Our Plan is therefore focusing its efforts on this first step of long-term master plan adoption, and the rest of this section covers only that process.

County staff is now reviewing the application and will prepare its report and recommendation. Given the size and complexity of this application, staff review could take four or five months. Staff may recommend denial, approval, or approval with changes.

The first public hearing, likely in May or June, will be before the Alachua County Planning Commission, a citizen advisory panel appointed by the County Commission. County staff will present their report and recommendation, Plum Creek will make its presentation, Planning Commissioners and the public may comment or ask questions, and then the Planning Commission will vote on a nonbinding recommendation to the County Commission.

The County Commission will then hold one or more “transmittal hearings,” likely in June and July. Once again, county staff will present their report and recommendation, Plum Creek will make its presentation, then County Commissioners and the public may comment or ask questions. The County Commission may then deny the application, transmit the application to the state Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) for review, or transmit with changes.

 If transmitted, the DEO has 60 days to consult with a variety of state and local agenies and elected bodies, and may make objections, recommendations, and comments (ORC report) to the County regarding compliance of the application with state law. If the DEO determines that the application will adversely impact important state resources or facilities, they must specify how, and what measures the County may take to mitigate those impacts.

The County Commission then has 180 days to hold “adoption hearings,” similar to the transmittal hearings, and act upon the application. The Commission may deny the application, adopt it, or adopt with changes. The County Commission is not obligated to make any amendments to its CP, and may reject applications in part or whole at its discretion.

If the County Commission adopts any amendments, any affected person, as defined by Florida Statute, may within 30 days file a petition with the Division of Administrative Hearings to request a formal hearing to challenge whether the plan amendment is in compliance with state statutes.

Stand By Our Plan will email supporters with dates and times for public hearings as they become available.