ALACHUA – Two years after owners of Phoenix Commercial Park requested voluntary annexation into the City of Alachua, and initial concerns were raised about possible contamination on the property, the Alachua City Commission has advised the city manager to set up a meeting to discuss terms of the annexation.
All five commissioners were in agreement that the annexation of the property into the City of Alachua would be mutually beneficial for both the City and Phoenix Park. Virginia Johns, one of the owners of Phoenix Park, requested a final meeting between city staff and owners of the commercial property to fine-tune several items in the agreement.
Phoenix Commercial Park consists of 146 acres located along U.S. Highway 441 and includes the former Moltech Power Systems battery plant. City commissioners have expressed concern that potential environmental hazards may still exist on the property.
Johns said she could not guarantee that the parcel of land was contaminant- free, but a 2006 environmental study did give Phoenix Park positive reviews.
The property has a brownfield designation, which comes with concerns, but Johns said the designation provides state and county incentives. The designation was given because the property sits adjacent to land that is a confirmed contaminated site.
During the Monday meeting, the city’s consulting attorney, David Theriaque, provided the commission with three options on how to proceed with the annexation. Theriaque has been working with Phoenix Park representatives since a Jan. 24, 2011 meeting to determine possible options available to the city.
Options include the city annexing the property without limitations, or annexing the property and attempting to set up a system where city employees would not perform utility work on site, or abandoning the annexation.
A stated concern is that a city employee performing utility work on the site might come in contact with contaminants, and the city would be held responsible for workers compensation if something happened.
Johns suggested the city look at the property as if it were any other piece of land. If a city employee came to check the meter on a piece of property, he or she would not progress any farther than that meter. It should be the same for Phoenix Park. At the end of the meeting, Theriaque agreed.
Utilities on the site would remain private, except for sewer.
“I want to be in the city,” Johns said. “But I don’t want to cause any problems.”
Johns does not want Phoenix Park to be required to perform an environmental study every time it breaks ground for construction as extensive costs associated with such prerequisites would cause development to stagnate.
Prior to the next city commission meeting, city staff will assemble documents and studies associated with the property and meet with the owners to review the proposed annexation agreement.
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