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Leon County commissioners to vote on Welaunee expansion plan

Posted at 6:33 PM, May 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-26 18:33:36-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — COVID-19 brought life as we know it to a halt, but city and county leaders say we don't have to let it stop future development.

City and county commissioners are expected to vote on the next phase of the Welaunee extension project on Tuesday.

Concerned community members want city and county leaders to wait before making master plan decisions for the Walaunee expansion project.

The project has been part of Leon County's Comprehensive Plan for 30 years. A decision on Tuesday would dictate how the county would develop more than 2,800 acres of land over the course of the next 20 to 30 years.

"If we want to plan our growth in a positive methodical disciplined way this is the best approach," said Leon County Commission chairman Bryan Desloge.

Desloge was among those in favor of proceeding with a vote on transmitting the Welaunee Expansion Project, despite the limitations COVID-19 puts on public comment.

Although there have been several opportunities for public input online, people living in the area say commissioners need to hear from the community in person.

"We know this property is going to be developed at some point, but let's take a step back wait six or nine months until the time starts," said Cliff Thaell, a Leon County resident and a former commissioner. "And when the pandemic is over and the public can meet face-to-face, look their elected representatives in the eye and say exactly how they feel."

Those who oppose the decision to develop say it could create a greater disparity between the northern parts of the community and Southside.

They also say the need for such a large-scale project could be uncertain based upon population changes after COVID-19. The plan also prepares for a population increase of more than 50,000 people.

But, Thaell says those numbers are uncertain given the pandemic.

"The numbers that we've heard of, 56,000 new population by 2045 from one perspective may not occur because we are entering into a time of great the economic distress," said Thaell.

Some also worry that further developing the northside would create greater economic disparity.

"The economic disparity is going to be if we let this be done, if we don't have the ability to master plan this and it just happens," Desloge said. "What's gonna happen is we're going to be doing what we're doing in the north east right now anyway, which is backpedaling, trying to figure out how the road system works, how do we sewer all of this, how do we manage the infrastructure?"

If the measure passes Tuesday, it will go to the state before future action.