Victory!! Collier drops bid

Collier drops $1 million offer for Loblolly land 

THANK YOU to everyone who contributed to this incredible community victory for the public trust, for conservation, and for democracy. This is a great day for Gainesville. The people’s voice was heard.

Save Loblolly Woods will now turn their attention to making sure that ALL of Loblolly Woods Nature Park is placed on Gainesville’s Registry of Protected Public Places as soon as possible. Your commission has the power to move this forward, so–if you’ll forgive one more plea–write them today and ask them to make this happen. Save Loblolly Woods still plans to make a presentation at the 9/5 Commission meeting! NOW, it will be a presentation focused on the future, FOREVER preservation of Loblolly.

 

Commission Meeting 9/5–This is it!

UPDATE: At this time we have been informed that the City Commission will vote on whether to sell the Loblolly property and under what conditions on THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 5. The meeting is scheduled to start at 1 pm; however, we have reason to hope that Loblolly will be on the evening agenda, starting at 5 pm. The time is NOT yet confirmed, so watch this space for a final time. This is your opportunity to speak on the issue, but even if you do NOT want to speak, it is crucial for Loblolly supporters to show up and be visible! If you like, wear GREEN as a show of support. We will also try to have something else on hand (sticker, flower, spray of pine, etc) for supporters to wear.

Is “privacy” really Collier’s motive?

Nathan Collier has said on the record that he “has no plans to pursue development,” that his “intent is not to develop this land in any way” and that he “has no plans to build on the land.” Yet city documents obtained by Save Loblolly Woods through public records requests tell a different story. Direct quotes include: “It was indicated that Mr. Collier would like to develop the northern portion of the site,” “Nathan’s long term goal is to develop the northern portion for a single family house,” and, in a draft proposal involving dividing the property into an easement section and a development section, “The land east of that new line will indicate the proposed developmental portion.” While it is still unclear how the final proposal will read (it has been through many revisions), one thing is clear, and the public needs to know it: Mr. Collier has expressed a desire to build on this parcel.

Below, you may read some compiled statements from Mr. Collier and his representatives, as contrasted with information found in city staff emails and documents, obtained by Save Loblolly Woods via public records request. Note that our intent is not to indict city staff, but simply to point out that it is obvious that Mr. Collier’s plans for this land include the possibility of building. Contrary to his multiple public claims, increasing his privacy is clearly not his only interest. This appears to be an open secret of sorts.

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COLLIER’S STATEMENTS

Citing privacy and safety concerns, Collier has offered that much to purchase a 5.7-acre piece of Loblolly Woods North Nature Park that backs up to his house.”—Gainesville Sun, 11/27

Collier said he wants the property as a buffer behind his homestead, which is wrapped by a tall wood fence and includes two houses. “I just desire privacy and the price offered is 95 percent a gift to the city I love and 5 percent market value,” Collier said… Collier said he has no plans to build on the land, which includes an area of wetlands, or apply for a zoning change.”—Gainesville Sun, 5/14

Collier has said he wants the piece of park land to expand his property and increase his privacy…Collier said he purchased those homes for the same reason he seeks to acquire the piece of park land from the city.

“I just want peace and quiet,” he said… Former Mayor Pegeen Hanrahan, who is representing Collier before the City Commission on his Loblolly offer, said he has no plans to pursue development on any of the properties he has purchased.”—Gainesville Sun, 6/27

My intent is not to develop this land in any way. I simply want it as a privacy buffer. The land comes with conservation zoning. I do not intend to try to change the conservation zoning and I can’t imagine the city ever agreeing.”—Nathan Collier, Gainesville Sun, 7/21

CITY STAFF EMAILS AND DOCUMENTS

Nathan Collier’s long term goal is to develop the northern portion for a single family house.”—City staff email, 6/7/2013

Do you know if Nathan is planning to rezone this property to RSF-1 like his existing lot, or will it maintain the Conservation zoning?”—Staff email to planning department, 6/10/2013

“I was requested to consult with Planning to find out what will be allowable for development if the Loblolly Woods park land that Nathan Collier wants to buy is only 4.99 acres vs. 5.  He currently owns five acres and purchasing 4.99 would expand his parcel to 9.99, or if he purchases 5 acres it would expand to 10 acres.  Does it matter for future development or environmental permitting requirements?  Is there any difference?  Nathan Collier’s long term goal is to develop the northern portion for a single family house.”—Staff email, 6/10/13

“(Snipped question) please touch base with Planning to see what will be allowable for development if the land was only 4.99 acres vs. 5 since Nathan’s long term goal is to develop the northern portion for a single family house

(Response) I spoke with [Staff] to see what development would be allowable – 4.99 vs. 5 acres.  The thought behind the 4.99 acres was to restrict him from building.  In fact, if he were to combine 4.99 acres with his existing acreage and re-zone everything from Conservation to Single Family, he could build 3.5 units per acre barring wetland or other environmental restrictions.  Ralph said there is nothing to prevent him from doing this.  The only thing that would actually protect the land in conservation is if there were deed restrictions placed when the property is sold.  [Staff] seemed to think the Environmental Ordinance would afford the property some protection but [Staff] said no.  [Staff] recommended speaking with Legal.”—staff email, 6/10

“Regarding the issue of potential development of the proposed 4.99 acres located in conservation district, A single family dwelling would be permitted per five acres of land.  Based on the conservation zoning, if the 4.99 acres was sold to Mr. Collier it could be combined with his existing acreage and re-zoned everything from Conservation to Single Family, he could build 3.5 units per acre barring wetland or other environmental restrictions. The only thing that would protect the land in conservation is if there was deed restrictions placed when the property is sold. (Clarification would be needed by legal on this and to see if the Environmental Ordinance would afford the property some protection) The exact location of any footprint for development was given but Mr. Collier was willing to designate the location of any future footprint for a single family dwelling in the property north of his existing boundary.”—6/20 draft agenda item

“Option Two: place a conservation easement over a portion of the proposed surplus property. It was indicated that Mr. Collier would like to develop the northern portion of the site, so a conversation easement would be placed over the total western side of the proposed surplus land. Since this would allow development on a portion of the property, it is recommended that that developmental portion be set at $250,000?? per acre, with the conservation portion at $200,000 an acre.

Option Three: place no restrictions on the surplused land. This would allow the maximum development as permitted by the City’s Land Development Code.  It is recommended that the cost of the land would be at $300,000?? per acre.”—6/25 draft agenda item

The land east of that new line will indicate the proposed developmental portion and the westrn side will be where option 2’s conservation easement would be place.”—Staff email, 6/25

“–In the future (with Deed restriction) the City could revoke deed at [and?] allow development

–He [Collier] is more comfortable with Deed restrictions

–[Collier is] Not sure why City Attorney wants conservation easement

–Conservation easement allows City to stick its nose in his [Collier’s] business”

–Staff notes from meeting with Collier and Hanrahan, 7/9

[Staff] will be sending me a draft agenda item that the options of full conservation easement with no development and an alternative option to include the potential to allow 1 single family dwelling.”—Staff meeting notes, 7/16

“Alternative Option Based on Discussions with Mr. Collier:

3. conservation easement (preferred by staff) or deed restriction (preferred by Mr. Collier) allowing no more than one single family house on the northeast portion of the property and leaving the remainder of the property in a natural state;

4. if a house is proposed for construction, it must meet all development requirements in place at the time the development is proposed;”—7/18 draft proposal

A letter from a teen who grew up by this part of the park

Today, we’d like to share this letter from a teenager who grew up by this part of the park. We think you’ll agree with its writer that all of Loblolly is a priceless community asset that should stay in the public trust for the benefit of generations of children to come.

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My parents decided to buy their first house, the house we live in now, next to Loblolly Woods Nature Park because they assumed, and rightfully so, that that span of undeveloped woods would be a place where both my younger sister and I could grow up enjoying the small sliver of nature that lined our yard. Throughout our childhood, we explored the woods, used a fallen tree as a clubhouse, played in the creek and enjoyed listening to the wildlife which calls Loblolly home. In our 13 years here we have seen turkey, deer, raccoon  foxes, a variety of different birds, and even on one occasion, a coyote, cross our yard, engage in a little bit of exploring, and then head back to the woods.

As a middle school student going to Westwood I used the trail, which runs through the conservation area, every day to get to school. It was a peaceful break from a noisy road. I am now in high school, and use the trail to run on and bike through. As a family, and as a neighborhood, we expected that having this natural oasis from the constant noise and the development of the city would be something permanent; especially considering its conservation status, but that no longer seems to be the case as it now is up for sale.

I am now 17 years old and next year I will be moving on to college and although this tragic potential sale will not affect me as much as others, I cannot help but think about the young children who I babysit across the street. Instead of having a piece of woods to explore and exercise their imaginations in, they will instead have a large fence, keeping them out, and the wildlife I was lucky enough to experience, in.

The notion that conservation land like this, land that is so enjoyed and used by the community, can be put up for sale is wrong. It adds so much to our neighborhood and the city. This land has been such an important part of my childhood and I hope it will continue to be an important part of the childhoods of those younger than me.

New Op-Ed in the Sun

As many of you know, there has been an attempt to link the funds from Collier’s attempted purchase of the Loblolly parcel to city purchase of Glen Springs, a neglected spring in Gainesville. (The city of Gainesville already owns the spring run and surrounding forest lands–they are part of Ring Park. However, the Elks Club owns the spring itself, two buildings, the parking lot, and a very small amount of surrounding land.) It remains unknown if this would actually occur.

Save Loblolly supports the purchase and restoration of Glen Springs, but we do NOT support the loss of the Loblolly parcel in order to make this happen. We believe that Gainesville can work together to make the Glen Springs project happen without Collier’s money and without losing public parkland.

So does nationally known journalist Cynthia Barnett, who writes on environmental and water issues in Florida and around the country. Here’s her Op-Ed from the Gainesville Sun this morning, titled “We can save Glen Springs without Nathan Collier’s cash.” Take a look.

Welcome!

Welcome to the Save Loblolly Woods website. We’re glad you’re here. Please take a look around to learn about the issues involved in Nathan Collier’s attempt to purchase this approximately 5-acre parcel of Loblolly Woods Nature Park in Gainesville, FL. Here is a map showing Loblolly Woods Nature Park’s location in the city of Gainesville. And here is a map of the park itself.

We are a group of citizens who have come together to work against this purchase of public parkland by a private citizen. We believe that public parks should remain in public ownership for perpetuity. Sale or conversion of these lands, no matter how lucrative, represents a breach of the public trust.