Envision Alachua Process

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Who is Weyerhaeuser?

In February 2016, Weyerhaeuser acquired and merged with Plum Creek, creating the world’s premier timber, land, and forest products company. The combined company owns more than 13 million acres of diverse and productive timberlands and operates 38 wood products manufacturing facilities across the country.
In Florida, Weyerhaeuser owns 415,000 acres in 18 counties with more than 98,000 acres of these lands in permanent conservation.

It is the largest private landowner in Alachua County, with 65,000 acres. Nearly 24,000 of these acres are permanently conserved. The company’s holdings are located throughout northern and eastern Alachua County, representing nearly 14% of the county.

Weyerhaeuser is committed to Envision Alachua and supporting communities where it has a significant presence and business interest. The Envision Alachua team working in Gainesville continues to engage the community to plan and achieve a shared vision for east Alachua County.

More information is available on Weyerhaeuser's website.

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2. What is the Envision Alachua process, and why was it convened?

In 2004, Alachua County government asked Weyerhaeuser (then Plum Creek) what it planned to do with all of its land holdings in the county. In response to the County’s request, and as part of Weyerhaeuser’s ongoing process for evaluating its lands, the company paused its normal business practice of regularly buying and selling land in the County in order to consider suitable community uses, together with timber, that could be aligned with community needs. Through discussions with numerous community leaders, the company learned about land use opportunities that merited further community discussion. As a result, the Envision Alachua visioning process was launched in June 2011 to explore potential opportunities for Weyerhaeuser’s holdings in Alachua County. The process is funded by Weyerhaeuser.

The process is designed to be:

  • A holistic approach to sustainable conservation and economic development;
  • An opportunity for a unique partnership and collaboration between the public and private sectors; and
  • An open dialogue with community leaders representing economic development, business, local government, education, environmental, conservation and residents in Alachua County.

The initial phase of the Envision Alachua community visioning process began in June 2011 and was completed in February 2012. It included a series of six facilitated Task Force meetings, two Community Workshops held at local churches, and a series of four Educational Forums on related topics.

Click here to view videos and download materials from the Task Force Meetings.
Click here to view videos and download materials from the Community Workshops.
Click here to view videos and download materials from the Educational Forums.

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3. Who is involved in the Envision Alachua Task Force, and what was their role in the visioning process?

The Task Force is composed of 32 members (roster) representing business, economic development, local government, education, environmental, conservation and residents of Alachua County. Members were selected by Weyerhaeuser based on discussions with local government officials, organizational representatives and community leaders. In selecting Task Force members, the company worked to ensure that different interests and constituencies with a range of opinions on economic, environmental and community issues in Alachua County were represented. Members of the general public were invited to participate in the Envision Alachua visioning process by attending Task Force meetings, Community Workshops, tours and Educational Forums.

Task Force and community members provided input into the visioning process for Weyerhaeuser lands in Alachua County. Through discussions with the Task Force and community, the company explored potential future economic development and conservation scenarios that could achieve long-range economic, environmental and community goals. The result is a document that describes the community’s vision for potential future economic development and conservation on lands Weyerhaeuser owns in Alachua County, entitled: Envision Alachua Task Force, Vision, Goals and Planning Principles for Plum Creek Lands in Alachua County.

Key issues identified by the Task Force, and addressed in the Planning Principles, include:

  • Disparity between west Gainesville and east Gainesville with respect to income, jobs, access to quality education, and access to goods and services
  • Growing competition from other regions of Florida, and other areas of the US and the globe
  • Lack of funding for completion of the “Emerald Necklace” conservation vision

Click here to download the Vision Document.
For more information about the Task Force, visit the Envision Alachua Task Force page.
Click here for the full schedule of meetings and events during Phase I.

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4. Who was involved in the Envision Alachua Technical Advisory Group (TAG), and what was their role in the process?

In 2012, Weyerhaeuser continued the Envision Alachua process with Phase II, convening a Technical Advisory Group (TAG) along with the Task Force and community members to determine how to achieve the community’s Phase I vision and goals on Weyerhaeuser’s lands. The TAG was composed of 19 members (roster), including representatives from agencies with regulatory and review authority over large-scale, land-use planning and policy decisions in Alachua County and the state. It also included individuals with specialized technical expertise in economics, conservation and community planning, as well as liaisons from the Task Force who are keepers of the vision.

The TAG provided input into Phase II of Envision Alachua by helping Weyerhaeuser advance the community’s land use and conservation strategies for Weyerhaeuser’s lands in Alachua County. The Task Force, the community and Weyerhaeuser evaluated the TAG’s input, as it related to the Phase I vision, for use in creating the 60,136 acre Sector Plan. TAG members were asked to help:

  • Identify relevant policies, opportunities and guidelines associated with Weyerhaeuser lands in Alachua County; and
  • Identify issues and opportunities to be addressed in the Weyerhaeuser Lands Sector Plan

For more information about the TAG, visit the Envision Alachua Technical Advisory Group page.

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5. How was the vision implemented in Phase II of the process? 

Envision Alachua Phase II began in October 2012 and was completed in December 2013. It consisted of five Task Force meetings, four Community Workshops, four Technical Advisory Committee meetings and the sponsorship of one economic development forum through the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce. The outcome of the Phase II process was the 50-year, Long Term Master Plan (LTMP) for Weyerhaeuser’s holdings in Alachua County, shaped by the community’s vision developed in Phase I. During Phase II, work on the subsequent Detailed Specific Area Plans (DSAPs) for portions of the LTMP began with the Task Force and community.

During Phase II, Weyerhaeuser determined it would use the Sector Plan process for its land-use application as it best represented the outcomes of the community’s vision. The Sector Plan is a comprehensive planning tool that:

  • Ensures lands are designated for conservation and economic development
  • Plans lands greater than 15,000 acres
  • Exceeds the current planning horizon of 20 years

The sector plan comprehensive planning tool was recently added to Alachua County’s options for comprehensive land use planning in anticipation of Weyerhaeuser’s requested land-use application.

Click here for the full schedule of meetings and events during Phase II.

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6. How is Envision Alachua addressing key issues in greater depth?

Recognizing that implementation of the community vision requires much more than approval of a land use change, and in response to the community Vision, Goals and Planning Principles, separate teams addressing priority topics were formed in the three key areas of the vision – Economy, Environmental Conservation, and Education and Community. Those teams looked deeper into the issues and solutions for those topic areas, and in the case of Economy and Education and Community, initiated community efforts to develop and act upon solutions.

In the Economic Opportunity goal area: Weyerhaeuser, partnering with the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce, the Council of Economic Outreach, Innovation Gainesville, the University of Florida and Santa Fe College, worked to create a regional marketing plan for economic development. As part of the marketing plan, Weyerhaeuser funded a baseline analysis of the greater Alachua County area and a higher education asset report of UF. As part of the higher education asset report, over 150 were conducted. This data led to additional research relationship mapping, including administration, deans and researchers at UF and SFC, businesses, government officials and community members interested in bettering the economy. No other university in the United States has ever had such a comprehensive asset mapping undertaking. To answer an immediate need, Weyerhaeuser produced a marketing piece for UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) for its use in recruiting companies to locate in the greater Gainesville area. Weyerhaeuser is continuing to work in partnership with the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce in support of their “Transforming Greater Gainesville” initiative, which has included global marketing, arranging visits by site selectors from around the country, and a series of marketing trips to various centers of the innovation economy. For more information, see the Economic Opportunity page.

In the Education and Community goal area: The East County Educators Committee was formed with the goal of taking a strategic approach to addressing preparation and awareness issues so that youth are ready for these new opportunities. The Committee specifically discussed these issues within the African American community, where it is seeking to ensure this community is prepared for the future. This committee’s purpose is to discuss issues, challenges and recommendations and its efforts resulted in an Education Forum on “Preparing Our Youth for Future Opportunities: Our Shared Responsibility" held on October 1, 2014. Local education and economic development leaders along with participating members of the community provided input for solutions. The outcome of the forum is an Action Plan, which supported the creation of the Alachua County Education Compact, signed on May 18, 2015. This Chamber-led effort is a collaborative of Alachua County’s education institutions, business, government, philanthropy, parents and families, community-based organizations and workforce development working to create systemic change that better prepares students for higher education and sustainable careers. This effort is highly unique where a community is supporting the economic development process with an improved and aligned education process to ensure a greater chance of employment post-high school for the community’s children. For more information, see the Education and Community page.

In the Environmental Conservation goal area: Weyerhaeuser convened a water team to produce a comprehensive integrated water system strategy to support the EASP for the company’s lands in Alachua County and as this relates to the North Florida Region. The water team was comprised of experts in water, wastewater, stormwater, wetlands, wildlife, environment, land-use planning and engineering from the business sector to the public sector. The strategy seeks to achieve the community’s goals for water use with a focus of aggressive conservation methods. To provide additional input to the water system strategy and for verifying the accuracies of assumptions made by the water team, a Water Advisory Panel was convened in 2014. The result of both the water advisory panel and the water team formed the basis for a new water ethic that shaped the policies of the EASP. A resource study was conducted by UF/IFAS’s Program for Resource Efficient Communities to determine if the EASP policies can achieve the goal of reducing water consumption by 50-percent per person for today’s standards, established by the Envision Alachua Task Force during Phase I. In that study, Dr. Pierce Jones and his team concluded that the EASP policies can help realize that water conservation goal. Dr. Jones is also researching where else in the U.S. and world are water leadership policies and goals as significant as those within the EASP. In 2015, in response to concerns regarding the suitability of the area designated for the SR 20 jobs center, Weyerhaeuser conducted field investigations to verify wetlands boundaries, soil borings to determine the depth of phosphorus-rich soils, and a geotechnical study and found the land suitable for urban development. For more information, see the Environmental Conservation page.

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7. How has community input been used in the Envision Alachua process?

Over the past five years of the Envision Alachua process, well over 2,000 community members have been involved. More than 760 presentations and key leader meetings have supported the effort. This comprehensive community inclusive approach has been unprecedented within the state of Florida to the degree of including the community in the planning process and allowing the community to meaningfully shape the plan. The Florida Chapter of the American Planning Association (APA) honored Envision Alachua with its 2013 Award of Excellence in the Best Practices category. The Best Practices Award is intended to honor a specific planning tool, practice, program, project, or process that is a significant advancement to specific elements of planning.

"The awards committee selected the Envision Alachua project for its very public and transparent visioning process," wrote APA Florida President Brian Teeple, AICP, in a letter nominating the process for an APA National Award. "The committee specifically noted the commitment that Weyerhaeuser has made to the all-inclusive nature of the process, engaging residents from all over Alachua County, including those whose voices are typically not heard in the planning process," he added. The Florida APA recommended that other landowners look to Envision Alachua as an example of how to include the community in master planning.

The Vision Document (click here to download) and the Sector Plan application (click here to download), of Weyerhaeuser’s land in Alachua County – reflect the community’s vision, desire and goals for how it wants to mature over the next 50 years. The EASP, which is the 50 year long-term master plan for 52, 745 acres,was initially submitted on December 12, 2013 and the final submittal of county-requested information was June 24, 2014 from which the review process began.

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8. How did implementation continue during Phase III of the process?

Phase III of the Envision Alachua process began in early 2014 and has continued nto 2016with additional Task Force meetings, Community Workshops and Educational Forums. The Envision Alachua Sector Plan (EASP) application was submitted to Alachua County on June 24, 2014, and the County completed its initial review process in August 2014, recommending denial of the application. Weyerhaeuser revised the EASP in response to comments and questions received from County Commissioners, County staff, community members and Envision Alachua Task Force members. The revised application was submitted to Alachua County on June 25, 2015. County staff completed its review of the revised application and released its report November 3, 2015. On November 19, 2015, the Alachua County Planning Commission voted to send the EASP application on to the County Commission, recommending approval. The County Commission held a series of public hearings on the EASP application in February 2016. On March 1, 2016, the Alachua County Commission voted 3-2 not to transmit the EASP to state agencies for their review and input. Sector Plan applicants are eligible to submit a new Sector Plan application in six months. Weyerhaeuser is currently considering its next steps.

A separate application was made to annex Weyerhaeuser lands within the City of Hawthorne's urban reserve area and amend its comprehensive plan. On November 17, 2015, the City of Hawthorne voted unanimously to adopt the voluntary annexation and amend its comprehensive plan to accommodate the creation of a new jobs center. Rezoning will be completed in 2016, after which necessary permitting processes will begin to make the site shovel-ready in 2017.

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