To sell its plan, Plum Creek richly resourced a program called Envision Alachua composed of local Realtors, developers and a small number of token progressives and community advocates. Its clearly stated purpose is to promote development and accept as inevitable the proposition of building big, far and away from existing infrastructure.
Some of the Envision participants are my friends. Most of them are good citizens. They are also on the wrong side of the democratic process. Plum Creek is a timber company being bought out by Weyerhaueser, another timber company. Weyerhaueser reports the purpose of the merger as realizing profit on a speculative boom in the housing industry and creating “synergies” to better influence their markets.
Envision Alachua promises the opposite on their web site. They say this is about jobs, not houses. One of them has to be mistaken.
Envision Alachua often claims that by not following Plum Creek’s plan, we are dooming the county and East Gainesville. But our problems will not be solved by building a medium-sized city on empty wetlands surrounded by rural towns. It will not be solved by a timber company, even if it is well meaning.
We need to support allies to the public good who choose to extract themselves from this corporate-backed intrusion into the democratic process. We must hold them and our elected officials accountable not just for supporting or opposing it, but for being silent on the Plum Creek plan as well.
— James Thompson is a Gainesville resident and bike-ped advocate