[UPDATE] DCA Ruling Clears Way for Lake Jackson Development

UPDATED 12.23.2010 by Julie Montanaro

The Lake Jackson Protection Alliance has asked the First District Court of Appeals to withdraw a recent ruling which paved the way for construction to begin on the controversial Summer field development.

The Alliance demanded a rehearing in a motion filed earlier this week.

The motion claims the ruling elevates land development regulations to the same level as comprehensive plans, which it likens to making Florida's laws equal to its constitution.

The motion contends the First DCA failed to follow "strict scrutiny" and other legal precedents in making its decision.

The Alliance's motion says if the court's December 8th decision is allowed to stand, it will "dilute" standards of review for all future developments in Leon County and beyond.

The Alliance says if the court does not grant a rehearing, it would like clarification of the ruling regarding closed basins in special development zones.

Summer field developer Gordon Thames says he is disappointed in the filing, but not surprised. "This prolongs the matter further," he said, "and after seven years, we believe it's long overdue for resolution."

Thames says his attorneys are still reviewing the motion for rehearing and will respond appropriately.

UPDATED 12.9.2010 by Julie Montanaro

A controversial development near Lake Jackson gets the green light from the First District Court of Appeals.

Summerfield's developer hopes to start work on the community by this summer, but those concerned about its impact on the lake aren't ready to throw in the towel just yet.

Right now, this pasture is home to a herd of goats and the donkeys that protect them. Come spring, this 107 acres could be transformed into a mix of houses, apartments and businesses called Summer field.

"We believe they'll be a little nicer and better than anything that's been done out this way. It'll be a positive impact for jobs, economic activity, and obviously provide much needed housing," said Gordon Thames, President of Arbor Properties.

Lake Jackson is right across the street and concerns about wildlife and water quality have kept this development on the drawing board and in court for more than six years.

Wednesday, the First District Court of Appeals ruled that Summer field did not have to meet more stringent requirements for what's called a special development zone because it is built around closed basins, which do not discharge any runoff or storm water into the lake.

"Separating the facts from a lot of the hype has been part of the challenge for the past 6 to 7 years and with that water ... there's no way that water affects Lake Jackson," Thames said. "So, we've gone above and beyond to meet all of the county's, you know, criteria that they impose for that and more. And I can tell you having property like this, no one cares about Lake Jackson looking good and being healthy more than we do."

"I clenched up my stomach and said darn or something a little more powerful," said Lake Jackson Protection Alliance President Mike Brezin, when he heard about the court order.

Brezin is part of the Lake Jackson Protection Alliance which has been fighting Summer field all these years.

He canoes on the lake and is not convinced that hundreds of homes and apartments can be built so close without having an impact on the lake he loves.

"There are plenty of low areas on the Summer field property that we feel underground would come into Lake Jackson and that has an impact of course on water quality, just as we saw with the, you know, sprayfield with the City of Tallahassee affecting Wakulla Springs."

Brezin says he is not sure if the Alliance will continue to fight the development in court or focus its energies on trying to push for environmental upgrades as Summer field hammers out the details of its development.

Leon County Commissioner John Dailey, who represents District 3 which includes Lake Jackson said, "Whatever the developer does, the court has spoken and we at Leon County will do everything we can to uphold the law."

"It's going to be interesting," Dailey said, "to see the impact county-wdie that this particular ruling has."

The First District Court of Appeals reversed a lower court decision Wednesday and okayed plans for the controversial Summer field Development near Lake Jackson.

The developer had appealed a lower court ruling which sided with the Lake Jackson Protection Alliance, which had filed sued to try to stop the 107 acre development.

The DCA's opinion is attached above.

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