Clay Considers Taxes on Growth; Development in Branan Field Area Could Soon Demand More Then Government Can Afford

Article excerpt

Byline: NIN-HAI TSENG, The Times-Union

MIDDLEBURG -- Months ago, homes plotted for the WhisperCreek subdivision existed merely on paper. Today, the newest signs of growth along Clay County's Branan Field-Chaffee Road have sprung into view, as model homes flashing welcome signs seek to draw new residents.

Soon, those residents, many with toddlers and newborns, will flock to suburbia. And they'll demand more than what Clay County could afford.

Tuesday the County Commission will host a workshop to discuss major development expected on about 20,000 acres in the Branan Field area and the possibility of levying multiple taxes on developers countywide. Revenue, expected to generate millions for the county each year, would go toward road and park construction to meet the demands of growth.

"We're not trying to punish anybody," said Commissioner Patrick McGovern, whose district covers the Branan Field area in north-central Clay County. "We're just trying to bring forth standards set by the state."

Developer taxes have long been discussed and delayed by the commission. However, the issue could grow more urgent in the coming months, particularly because the county is near approving rules dictating how development would occur in the Branan Field area.

Commissioners are now considering increasing the pace of development. It's a significant deviation from what county officials had long planned in gaining unprecedented control over growth, Planning Director Thad Crowe said.

The Branan Field Master Plan, adopted last summer, limited development to 3,300 residential units during the first five years. Commercial and light industrial construction also was limited to 1.25 million square feet, Crowe said. But because of years of repeated setbacks, landowners have grown impatient and have caused a backlog of development plans.

McGovern said sooner rather than much later, the proposed caps would force a moratorium over building in the Branan Field area. …