ALACHUA – The City of Alachua Commission passed three ordinances Monday night allowing for the creation of the new zoning designation “Corporate Park” and the rezoning of previously agricultural and industrially zoned property to the newly created Corporate Park zoning.

Corporate Park zoning is the designation for a multi-use area, allowing residential and commercial endeavors to coexist with biotechnology firms. The UF Foundation may develop the newly rezoned area, which was created specifically for biotechnology research and development and is intended to be used for a campus-like atmosphere featuring housing and research buildings together.

The site could potentially host a medical radioisotope laboratory, a research facility producing radioactive isotopes to diagnose and treat diseases. Located east of NW 140th Street and west of the San Felasco Hammock Preservee State Park, the 275-acre property is near the Shaw Farms neighborhood.

If UF Foundation doesn't develop the land, having the new zoning designation would be “tools in the toolbox” for the city, said City of Alachua attorney Marian Rush.

Gerry Dedenbach, planning director for Causseaux, Hewett & Walpole, representing UF Foundation said that Alachua has a strong foothold in the biomedical field through Progress Corporate Park.

Alachua also has assets such as UF's Sid Martin Biotechnology Incubator and Santa Fe's Perry Center for Emerging Technologies. A new biotech corporation would bring in additional jobs to the city and create a “live, work, play” environment, Dedenbach said.

Alachua resident Carol Thomas asked if the rest of the city's citizens would be allowed access to possible accessories included in Corporate Park, such as swimming pools. Mayor Gib Coerper responded that the corporation would allow public access to trails and parks in the area, but anything on private property would have the same exclusivity as any other private property. “You can't just go in and hang out,” he said.

Still, development on the land may include restaurants and retail stores open to the public.

A safety concern was raised about whether there was a possibility for contamination of nearby land and water. One audience member asked how anyone could be certain that the groundwater would be safe if there has never been a radioisotope lab in the country before.

Dedenbach said that the products would be manufactured deep inside of biologically secure labs, and that the products would be of a pharmaceutical grade. He said they would be regulated by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

He also added that there would be security guards 24/7, so no one could simply walk into the labs.

The property is in proximity to Progress Corporate Park and would allow for people to walk between both areas. The development would be a “pedestrian-oriented environment,” according to city planner Brandon Stubbs.

Homeowners from Shaw Farms spoke about the importance of them having a voice in the process of the new development. One homeowner said he wanted to see provisions making sure that the area remains clean.

“The fear is we're getting run over,” said another homeowner, Robert Hamilton.

Commissioner Robert Wilford agreed that those were valid concerns, and that a buffer zone should be created between the development and the neighboring residential areas.

Mayor Gib Coerper said that he is “proud that this thing has been brought to us.” He added that his son moved away because he couldn't find a job in Alachua, and he likes the idea of students studying in the city and then staying with new job opportunities.

Commissioner Orien Hills said, “I like the concept.”

A fourth ordinance relating to the rezoning was deferred to a later date.