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Storied Wilderness Is Developers' Target

November 29, 1987|Associated Press

CROSS CREEK, Fla. — The cypress-shingled house where Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings wrote her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, "The Yearling," remains a quiet outpost in the forest near here.

But the tranquility of Cross Creek, home to bald eagles, white-tailed deer, wood storks, sandhill cranes and alligators, may soon be a thing of the past if developers succeed in overturning protective land-use regulations.

Already, the community of seven families Rawlings described in her classic novel, "Cross Creek," as "a bend in a country road" has 800 residents, three fishing camps, a convenience store, a restaurant and a paved road.

Around Cross Creek, 21 miles southeast of Gainesville, land owners and developers have proposed, at one time or another, a city of 90,000 people with 30,000 housing units, a "wilderness village" for recreational vehicles, a tourist bazaar of antiques and crafts, a 522-acre housing tract and other ventures.

Protective Land Laws

Alachua County, however, prohibits building within 1,500 feet of an eagle's nest or within 300 feet of a lake shore, and commercial development must be in the center of town. On the fringe of town, no more than one building to every five acres is allowed, and no commercial buildings are allowed near the Rawlings farmhouse, a historic site since the author's death in 1953.

Early next year, a Gainesville court will consider a property owners' lawsuit that challenges the county's authority to control its growth. The landowners want the plan thrown out, and they want to be paid for lost property value. The suit claims that the building restrictions violate their constitutional rights by, in effect, taking their land without compensation.

The county says that property owners can still use the land the way they have used it for decades, but they may not change Cross Creek's character or disturb its delicate ecology.

"It's one of those cases where property rights clearly come into a collision course with environmental realities," said County Commissioner Leveda Brown.

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