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Gainesville wont give system extra time to build school
System had asked for 4 more years to build at Mundy Mill development
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It looks like Gainesville’s school system won’t be getting the extra time it asked for to build a school in the Mundy Mill development.

As it approved a slew of changes to the zoning requirements at the Mundy Mill village development, the Gainesville City Council removed a condition Tuesday that would have given the school system another four years to build an elementary school on a 17-acre site in the village-type development.

The condition had been added by the city’s Planning and Appeals Board last month at the request of school officials.

When he first planned the development, Robby Lanier promised to donate a 17-acre site to the school system for an elementary school. School officials, in turn, agreed to build it with their own money by 2013.

If the school was not built by 2013, then the property would be returned to Lanier, according to the original zoning requirements.

School officials say now they likely won’t need the Mundy Mill school until 2015 or 2017 because of their own economic woes and slowed growth in the system’s enrollment.

Yet the school system already has spent money designing the building and mitigating environmental conditions, Superintendent Merrianne Dyer said.

City school officials have asked that as the City Council plans to change the development’s zoning standards, that council members also amend the timetable in which they are required to build the school. A majority of a conflicted
planning board consented.

But on Tuesday, Kathy Zickert, who represents Regions Bank, told the City Council that the bank opposed the condition. The bank recently foreclosed on the property where the school was slated to be built inside the development.

She said the bank does not have the flexibility of a private developer to change the rules on the property gift.

“I wish I could (consent to the extension of time). I know certainly my original client (Robby Lanier) intended to do so, and we all thought by this point and time we’d be to the point where this school was already developed,” Zickert said.

Zickert asked that the city remove the condition for now.

“I’ll work with Regions. I’ll work with the city. I’ll work with the school board as I have in the past to see if there’s any way that we can do something that will help in some way, but there’s not much I can do in terms of making the commitment that’s been requested,” Zickert said.

After the meeting, Zickert said Regions will live with the existing condition that gives the school system until 2013 to begin construction on the school.

“But we are bound by federal law not to just give way property that we foreclosed on,” she said.

A majority of the City Council voted to remove the condition. Councilman Robert “Bob” Hamrick voted against it.

“I think we still need to preserve a site for the school with the same conditions if we’re going to make amendments,” he said.

With the vote came an initial approval of changes to more than 10 of the current zoning standards on the 605-acre development, which was originally billed as an insular village where residents could live, shop, play and send their children to school.

The current zoning standards for the project were written with one developer in mind who would be responsible for finishing the roads before the city would take them as its own, and who would create a master homeowners association to govern all the various neighborhoods.

The measure the council approved Tuesday makes way for the new reality at Mundy Mill that it will be completed by several different developers.

Lanier, the original developer, has lost most of the property through foreclosure.

The measure approved Tuesday removes the requirement for a single developer to build tennis courts, gazebos, grills and picnic tables and lowers the expectation of a tiled bath to a ceramic-tiled bathroom floor.

It eliminates a requirement to convert an old residence on the property into a clubhouse for residents, allows for slightly smaller homes and removes a mandate for a minimum of 350,000 square feet of commercial, retail or office space to be built before the first apartment complex.

And instead of one property owners’ association for the entire village, each community within the development can create its own.

But the school issue will have to wait.

“We have been told in no uncertain terms that ... this is something that would almost certainly result in a lawsuit, and we would not win. We don’t have a legal basis for extending the dates for the schools,” Mayor Ruth Bruner said. “We will do what we can, and hope that Regions would be as supportive as they can to help the schools to mitigate the students that would be brought in from the development. We very much support the school system but we don’t think we can extend the dates, legally.”

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