Clay County isn't the first Florida county to plan the future
around a road that won't exist for years.
In western Orange County, a combined effort by the area's citrus
growers and Disney resulted in plans for a 38,000-acre
development called Horizon West. Construction has just begun on
the first of eight "villages" in the detailed plan, which closely
plots all aspects of growth and has become the model of choice
for state planners.
"We came across a good thing in Orange County, and have made an
effort to replicate it in other areas of the state," said Charlie
Gauthier, regional administrator for the state Department of
Community Affairs, which oversees local planning.
The Legislature has authorized an experiment modeled after
Horizon West, looking at whether making detailed plans for
massive regions is a better and more lasting way to balance
economic development, infrastructure needs and land uses.
Five governments, either cities or counties, will be picked for
the experiment. Each project must encompass at least 5,000 acres.
The state will exempt developers in each experimental area from
the regional impact process, which is supposed to review large
developments more rigorously for things like public services.
Clay is considering whether to submit its plan for Branan
Field-Chaffee Road. In the meantime, it is already receiving
praise from planning officials.
"It's a real cool concept. We're highly supportive of what Clay
County has done here," said Brian Teeple, executive director of
the Northeast Florida Regional Planning Council.
Clay's plan, like Horizon West, maps out a mix of homes,
stores, and industry; sets standards for subdivision design; and
marks land for conservation, parks, roads, schools and community
centers. It also will, like Horizon West, set up one or more
ways to pay for the public services.
But the Clay effort would have one thing Horizon West's planners
would like to have: A signed agreement on how Clay and Duval
counties will develop at their borders, said G. Brian Wheeler,
senior vice president of the Genesis Group, which worked on the
Clay County plan.
Currently, counties map out general areas for future uses --
like agriculture, residential and retail -- then wait to react
to specific plans developers bring forward.
Separately, transportation, water and sewer, and school
officials set their own plans for future infrastructure needs.
And independently of the other two efforts, economic development
officials map out their own strategies for growth.
When there's a problem area, such as traffic-congested Butler
Boulevard in Duval County, it's because these three elements
are out of balance, Wheeler said.
A plan the state is requiring St. Johns County to do in its
northwest sector in exchange for allowing more development along
Interstate 95 will be modeled after the Horizon West concept.
St. Johns officials expect to …