The Model: Orange County Will Be a Test Case for All of Florida

Article excerpt

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 hire a consultant to do their

plan later this fall. …