City agrees to Weiss property purchase

Virginia

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“This is one of the biggest pieces of conservation land in the city,” said City Commissioner Harvey Ward.

The Gainesville City Commission on Thursday unanimously agreed to team up with Alachua County officials to purchase a large area of conservation land in northwest Gainesville.

The $4.4 million, 711-acre property, known as the Weiss property, named after Boca Raton developer Arthur D. Weiss, is located between Northwest 43rd Street and Northwest 13th Street.

County commissioners last week agreed to put up about $2.9 million for their share of the property of 467 acres, while the city will spend $1.5 million for 244 acres.

“This is one of the biggest pieces of conservation land in the city,” said City Commissioner Harvey Ward.

The County Commission will fund its side with finds from the Wild Spaces Public Places sales tax. The city will split its portion with the tree mitigation and the Greenspace and Community Improvement funds.

The property falls within Ward’s District 2. He said he would like to explore constructing a park on the conservation land, or look to expand Possum Creek Park toward the area.

“Conservation is for the entire community,” Ward said. “This is in the interest of everyone in our city.”

Weiss bought the land in the late 1970s and tried to build a Haile Plantation-style development on it in the late ’90s. But the plans never came to fruition.

County officials have said they would like to see a trail opened on the property’s northern edge within a year. Both city and county officials have also said a recreation area could follow once wildlife and environmentally sensitive areas are identified.

The land is mostly pine flatwoods, has gopher tortoises throughout, floodplain forest and 231 acres hold wetlands or open water.

The property will soon be placed on the Alachua County Forever Registry of Protected Public Places, which would block any recreation there that might damage the environment.

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