GAINESVILLE – Alachua County’s Metropolitan Transportation Planning Organization (MTPO) has raised controversy by announcing plans to include Alachua’s Turkey Creek neighborhood as an urbanized area as it plans boundaries.

The organization’s voting members are six Gainesville city commission members, Gainesville mayor Craig Lowe and five county commission members.

Because the organization is mainly made up of Gainesville officials, some worry that other Alachua County cities won’t have enough input if the MTPO oversees roads and holds sway over transportation infrastructure within another municipality.

During a Monday meeting, the organization spent about an hour discussing the boundary lines in the proposed plan. According to North Central Florida Regional Planning Council Director of Transportation Planning Marlie Sanderson, the County has to include parts of Alachua in the plan.

“State law and federal law says the MTPO area has to include, must [include], the urbanized areas that are contiguous to the city of Gainesville,” he said.

“In addition to the existing urbanized areas which you must have, they also ask you to consider including areas that are expected to become urbanized over the next 20 years,” he said.

During the meeting, City of Alachua Mayor Gib Coerper openly opposed the proposed plan.

“It seems like there’s been no phone call, no email, no conversation at all with the City of Alachua,” he said. “The only reason we know about it is because I happen to sit on this board,” he said, referring to the MTPO.

He said that the MTPO would be making decisions for Alachua roads under the proposed plan, which he said he disagrees with.

“Over the years, they bring in state and federal dollars for transportation projects,” he said in a phone interview. “They have to follow state and federal guidelines. I just disagree with the criteria.”

According to Coerper, state and federal guidelines say that an urbanized area is any area where there are 1,000 people per square mile.

“[Turkey Creek] really shouldn’t meet that broad criteria of being an urban area,” he said, noting that it’s a private community.

Coerper said he wants to emphasize there isn’t a “love-hate” relationship between Alachua and the County.

“We want to work with the MTPO,” he said. “We may not agree with the decision, but we are committed to trying to understand where they’re coming from.”

He said that members appreciate the differences between the cities.

“We all respect one another,” he said.

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