Program to explain Comprehensive Plan review process
Steve Schell
February 1998

Most Alachua County residents do not realize, when they are stuck in traffic, worried about pollution, or mad about the loss of countryside to ugly sprawl development, that citizens can have a say in how their community grows--if they participate in the local comprehensive plan process.

State-mandated city and county comprehensive plans are local governments' blueprints for growth management. These comprehensive plans are now under public review, and there are significant opportunities for citizen input. To explain what comprehensive plans are and how citizens can participate in shaping their community's future, Sustainable Alachua County, Inc. will hold a town meeting, "Growing Smarter: Citizens and the Comprehensive Plan," Tuesday, February 17, at 7:00 pm at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in downtown Gainesville. Sustainable Alachua County, Inc. (SAC) is a community based organization that believes in a sustainable future which protects the environment and ensures a healthy economy and an equitable society.

Beginning in 1975, Florida's Growth Management Acts enacted the state's vision for managing future growth and protecting the environment. Additional key provisions were adopted in 1985: consistency among state and local plans; concurrency, which requires that infrastructure like roads, water and sewer be in place before development occurs; and more compact development by discouraging sprawl. Growth management legislation also requires citizen participation in comprehensive planning to "the fullest extent possible."

A two-part process at the local level, the Growth Management Acts first mandated the drawing up of local, community-based comprehensive plans to determine how counties and cities would grow. By 1991, after review by the state's Department of Community Affairs, all of Florida had completed local comprehensive plans.

But it is the second part of the Growth Management Acts' local process, the Evaluation and Appraisal Review (EAR), that is important today to those angry drivers stuck in rush hour traffic. Right now, Alachua County, Gainesville and the county's small cities are putting together their EARs. Over this next year as part of the EAR process, government and citizens will review local comprehensive plans and suggest appropriate amendments.

Many citizens do not know about this important state-mandated comprehensive plan review, or they are not sure how to get involved. At SAC's Town Meeting, planning experts from Alachua County, the city of Gainesville, and the North Florida Regional Planning Council, which represents most of the county's small cities, will explain what comprehensive plans are, describe the Evaluation and Review process, and answer questions about citizen participation.

This is your chance to take part in shaping growth in Gainesville and Alachua County. Plan to attend the town meeting to learn how to make your voice heard.

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