Brookside Village gets the okay to move forward

Published: Jan. 23, 2018 at 10:09 PM EST
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By: Mariel Carbone | WCTV Eyewitness News

January 23, 2018

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- Despite push back by residents, the Leon County Commission has voted to move forward with a residential development off Ox Bottom Road.

The development, called the Brookside Village Residential Subdivision, will be between Ox Bottom Manor and Moore Pond. It'll sit on 35 acres of land and include 61 single family homes.

Residents argued that the development was not compatible with existing development and called the numbers misleading. The Ox Bottom Manor and Moore Pond homeowner's associations filed a petition arguing this incompatibility, which went before the State of Florida Division of Administrative Hearing.

During the court hearing, residents said a large portion of the 35 acres will not be used for the development because of environmental reasons, which in turn creates a higher and more intense density of homes.

As outlined by the FDAH report, a majority of the homes will sit on a quarter acre of land. That's in contrast to Ox Bottom Manor, where houses sit on an average of .53 to .96 acres of land and Moore Pond, where homes sit on 1.49 to 12.39 acres of land.

"It's a tough one. And the county commissioners have to make their own conscientious decision on it. But, if they drive out here and look at this, even a first grader would know they're not compatible. Just look at the pictures," said Gene Sherron, a Moore Pond resident.

According to the county and the developer, density is always judged by "gross density" and not "net density" and that "the focus is not on lot-to-lot differences, but on maintaining stable communities and neighborhoods." Attorneys for the county and a judge with FDAH ruled that the development met the county’s land codes and was indeed compatible.

Other concerns by residents include an increase of traffic on Ox Bottom Road, a decrease in property values, the possibility of run off overflowing Moore Pond and the overcapacity of the local middle school.

Some also questioned the motives of the developer, Steve Ghazvini.

“Through his companies …. he’s made many donations to a lot of your campaigns. Including Commissioner Dozier,” said Ryan Andrews, a local attorney. “On October 27th 2017 Commissioner Dozier received 16 checks totaling $4,000 as a donation to her campaign. I’m uncomfortable knowing that Commissioner Dozier may have a vote today.”

An attorney representing the county noted that the donations did not present a conflict of interest and that it was not necessary for Dozier to recuse herself from the vote. Dozier pointed out that she receives donations from people with diverse and conflicting values, which do not influence her decisions.

Ghazvini has developed many major projects in Tallahassee, including the Canopy at Welaunee.

He said his company, Golden Oak, has spent the last two years accommodating neighbors and working with the county to meet all requirements to move forward with Brookside.

“We’ve changed a lot of things based on their comments,” said Ghazvini. “Everything that we have done either meets or exceeds your requirements.”

Ultimately, the commission voted unanimously to approve the project, citing the land codes.

"Like it or not, and frankly there are times we don't like what happens, we have to live by that. If we decided on the fly, in my opinion, that we would change based on whims of the body here, politically we would have anarchy and chaos,” said Commissioner Bryan Desloge, who sits on the district where the development will occur.

Gary Hunter, an attorney for Golden Oak, said the decision was the right one.

“If you comply with the rules, you ought to be able to proceed forward with what you've asked to do. And that's what's happening in this case,” he said.

Residents said they felt this was already a done deal prior to Tuesday's meeting.

"I'm just learning first hand they're not listening to the people. The county commission, their job is to serve the residents of Leon County and they're not doing that. They are serving a developer. I don't know why the reason is," said Mark Newman, an Ox Bottom resident.

"If they do approve it then we, then I, intend to organize people and start a social media campaign and be sure that none of those people get elected again," said Newman.

Commissioners said they plan to revisit the county's comprehensive plan for potential flaws following resident concern.