The mediation of the Mill Creek Sink dispute between Alachua County and the City of Alachua has come to naught as the mediator has declared an impasse. The article by April Warren appeared today, August 19 in the Gainesville Sun and can be seen in its original form at this link.
The issue for OSFR is the possible contamination of the Santa Fe River from the run-off from the huge concrete parking lot proposed by commercial development on the hills south of the of sink. Dye studies have shown a direct link from the sink to the river.
Impasse declared in talks over Wal-Mart site at U.S. 441/I-75
Published: Tuesday, August 18, 2015 at 6:15 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, August 18, 2015 at 6:15 p.m.
A mediator on Tuesday declared an impasse in talks between the Alachua City Commission and Alachua County Commission over the fate of a 154-acre parcel of land near U.S. 441 and Interstate 75.
The two government entities disagree on whether intense commercial development should be allowed to proceed in an area rife with underground caves that carry surface water to the Floridan aquifer.
Former Gator football star Carlos Alvarez, who has spent the last 45 years practicing law, presided over the meeting at Alachua’s City Hall.
“My goal is to get you to a solution, no matter how you get there,” Alvarez told members of both boards.
But after hearing from both sides and members of the public, Alvarez called the impasse. He recommended both sides go back and talk with their staffs and see about returning with better ideas.
He cautioned both sides that pursuing a remedy with the court system can drag on for years and in the end still bring the parties back to the where they are now.
In April, the city voted to rezone the area, which would accommodate a large commercial development, including a Wal-Mart supercenter.
The property has numerous underground limestone caves, raising concerns that stormwater runoff from the site could contaminate groundwater.
Concerned residents reached out to the County Commission and in May, county commissioners voted to file legal paperwork challenging the rezoning in the environmentally sensitive area, which then required mediation.
During the session, county attorney Michele Lieberman pointed out with development can come automotive fluid drippage in the parking lots, leaking garbage dumpsters and issues with retail lawn chemical storage.
The results of a previous dye study and cave mapping established Mill Creek Sink, located to the north of U.S. 441, has an extensive downstream cave section that extends beneath the proposed development area, according to Lieberman. The underground network is also linked to the Floridan aquifer, a large source of drinking water for the area.
Research has also found groundwater from Mill Creek Sink travels under the properties and to the county-owned Santa Fe Hills public water supply utility, to the recreation spot Hornsby Spring, located on the Santa Fe River, part of which is covered by a conservation easement the county holds.
City of Alachua officials have said the county’s stance is premature, because it’s so early in the process the developers haven’t yet submitted site plans.