Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Florida Wants Clay to Fund Duval Roads $55 Million Sought as Branan Trade-Off

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Florida Wants Clay to Fund Duval Roads $55 Million Sought as Branan Trade-Off

Article excerpt

Byline: Binyamin Appelbaum, Times-Union staff writer

ORANGE PARK -- State regulators could require Clay County to pay an estimated $55 million for road construction in Jacksonville before approving a development plan for the Branan Field area. The money would help Jacksonville widen two roads from the future suburb.

Until the payment possibility emerged this week, the County Commission was expected to pass the Branan Field plan on Tuesday night. Several commissioners now say they will wait until state regulators agree to a substitute for direct payment such as a fund that could be spent on road work throughout the Branan Field area.

Asking Clay County taxpayers to build Duval County roads would be a breach of regional good will, they said.

Duval County planners, however, said some kind of suburban assistance with urban roads is long overdue.

"Jacksonville is significantly impacted by traffic coming out of Clay County," said Denise Bunnewith, the city's chief transportation planner. "This would be an opportunity to collect fees from them."

Negotiations are in progress, but the last-minute scramble has led some to question why county officials did not work out the intercounty payment issue earlier in the three-year Branan Field planning process.

"I'm not going to venture a guess about why this thing got put on the back burner until it came up and bit us in the behind," said Ken Smallwood, who owns land in the Branan Field area.

Questions have also been raised about the county's choice of planning process for the Branan Field area.

The commission voted in 1999 to prepare the Branan Field plan as part of a five-county experiment authorized by the state Legislature the previous year. Called "sector planning," it gave counties unprecedented control over future development, including the ability to spread the cost of roads, schools and other infrastructure among all developers.

Under Florida's standard planning law, only developments larger than 800 units are required to participate in cost-sharing.

On the flip side, sector planning cast the county in the role of mega-developer, with responsibility for any infrastructure needs created by the influx of residents. …

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