Recent actions by City and County Commissions on the Welaunee amendments to the Comprehensive Plan extended the Urban Services Area to support a large development in the northeast. Would you have voted for or against them, and why?

City Commission
Seat 2

Curtis Richardson

In planning for growth, the original Blueprint committee was formed 20 years ago. The second phase of Blueprint means planning for a time far from now. It’s not too soon to plan for future development. Future growth must be only in areas large enough to accommodate that kind of growth. Huge swaths of land – that’s where Tallahassee is going to have to grow. The City won’t be paying for infrastructure for another 10-20 years. The City must have infrastructure built out in preparation for growth, but not to the detriment of the southside.

Bill Schack

I would have voted to not make these decisions without first obtaining live public input. Citizens don’t know if the commissioners read all the emails they said they did. In a live presentation, citizens know they have been heard and taken seriously.

County Commission
Group 1 – At Large

Carolyn Cummings

I would have wanted more citizen input. These were very unusual circumstances and the Board was hard pressed to balance everything. Any concerns I would have had about voting in favor would be based on the need for public comment. As for the specifics of the plan, I do not have enough information to say how I would have voted. I was surprised that they voted to go forward as I believe Board is concerned about due process.

Kelly Otte

I would have voted no. The process needed to slow down. I was appalled by the Board when it changed its position on public comment. There was too little transparency. A quick vote is appropriate when the Board members are all well informed and there is broad community support. What the Planning Department is doing now is great. There are videos explaining what the project is about. I have been watching the video workshops and will be attending one. Welaunee needs a master plan. I have talked to many people who have concerns about the project, but I would also be sure to talk to those who do not have those objections.

District 4

Bryan Desloge

I voted for the amendments. This is the first chance to plan out a large area. Public input used to be limited to a public meeting and you had to come to the meeting and stand in front of your representatives. Today you can do so with texts, emails, Zoom, etc. For the first six months there were lots of notifications, meetings and so forth. This only changed in the last three months due to COVID. In almost all civic meetings, I actually prefer that you send me an email since this is significantly better than calling me up. The message will be straightforward and takes a lot of the emotions out of the communication. I voted yes on Welaunee because we have been working on it for the last 30 years and cannot stop due to a pandemic. To do so would be like not making payroll. It just made sense for me to vote yes.

Brian Welch

I am not categorically opposed to the current Welaunee comp plan amendments, but I am opposed to how it was done. The process was flawed. I would only have supported Welaunee if the proper dialogue had taken place and had more citizen input. I could support the amendments but not in the current environment we are in. The Welaunee parkway is needed to take pressure off Centerville and Miccosukee Roads. The process of approving the amendments was ill-guided and the last-minute motion made by Mr. Desloge was a slap in the face to people’s intelligence. It was wrong to hammer changes through during a pandemic and this is unfortunate.
I did not understand the sudden urgency for it. But this speaks to the broader attitude about development in Leon County. I believe the amendments were valid and based on my understanding, I could have supported them if the process had been more open. The whole area is within the city limits, development will take place, but I am concerned with what the development will look like based on the way it has taken place over that last few years. Communications with the existing surrounding neighborhoods and impacted people has been flawed and lacking. Right now is not the right time. These amendments could have waited a year or two, or longer, to let the people air their concerns or convince county commissioners that this does not need to take place when development could better benefit other areas of town. Overall, I disagree with the sense of urgency and believe that a decision of this magnitude could have waited.