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HIGH SPRINGS – High Springs may soon be home to a new food truck park. The High Springs City Commission heard details about the proposed food truck park at the March 25 City Commission meeting. The proposed park would be located at 18274 Main Street.

Developer Karl Spain, agent for Radiant Life Ecoville, LLC, submitted a site and landscape plan application for the food truck park that would be located at 18274 Main Street.

“The site plan has not been reviewed by staff because there are no regulations for food truck parks in the Land Development Code,” said City Manager Ashley Stathatos, “and they are not listed in the allowable uses table. They do not qualify to be considered as a restaurant, either.” Therefore,” she said, “staff cannot adequately review and approve the site plan for the food truck park submitted by the applicant.”

Spain’s plan has the food truck park on one lot and a parking area across the street on another lot. Concern about the safety of pedestrians crossing Main Street was raised as well as concern for other restaurants in the city. Spain’s contention is that this park, which would only be available on high traffic days as people go to and from the springs, will benefit all of the businesses in town.

Commissioner Linda Jones expressed concern that some of the smaller businesses may not agree with Spain that the park will be a benefit to them. Jones intends to talk to some of those restaurants as well as other business owners to get a sense of how they feel about the proposed food truck park.

A City ordinance governing food truck parks has been written and will be presented to the High Springs Plan Board in April and the City Commission in May. In the Ordinance, staff recommends that food truck parks be put in the allowable uses table as a conditional use, which means the City Commission would make the determination if they are allowed at a specific time when developers want to bring them into the City.

Spain’s application will run concurrently with the food truck park ordinance through the Plan Board in April and City Commission in May.

Water System Master Plan Study

In other business, Lewis Bryant and Cara Keller from Kimley Horn presented a proposed water sewer utility system master plan study for High Springs. The proposal includes preparation of system demand projections for 5, 10 and 20-year time horizons, preparation of water, wastewater and reclaimed water collection/distribution system master plans, a capital improvements plan, a water treatment facility plan and wastewater treatment facility plan.

A revenue sufficiency analysis is part of the project as well as identification of project funding sources. “Having an updated Water Sewer Utility System Master Plan helps to prepare the City for future growth and puts the City in a better position to apply for and compete for grants,” said the Kimley Horn representatives. The proposed cost for the Water Sewer Utility System Master Plan is $187,400. The City is evaluating potential funding sources to pay for it.

Impact Fee Study

In the third presentation of the evening, Clancy Mullen, Duncan Associates, discussed a proposed impact fee study to develop a method to fairly assess fees that would generate revenue to fund capital projects. He stressed that an impact fee is a one-time fee assessed at the time of construction and is not recurring.

The impact fee study proposed by Duncan Associates would specifically consider the potential impact of fees for transportation, parks, fire, police, administration and public works facilities.

Transportation would be one fee since it is based off trip generation. Parks would be a second fee based on residential uses only. A third fee would be a general government fee for fire, police, administration and public works facilities based on both residential and commercial uses.

Although the City is aware that the water and sewer impact fees need to be increased, this study does not address these potential fee increases. Mullen said City staff recommends that this be done on completion of a water and sewer master plan since an updated capital improvement project list is needed for calculation of the water and sewer master fees.

Mullen said the basic study would cost $29,750 with an additional fee of $2,500 for the impact fee study and another $3,500 to draft an ordinance for the City to consider. The total cost for the impact fee study would be $35,750. Mullen provided a timeline of approximately six months, which would include three public meetings. Mullen said the study would be necessary in order to establish that the fee could be defensible if challenged.

Stathatos is meeting with department heads to see if spending reductions could be made which would enable the City to take the funds from the general fund to fund the study.

Rails to Trails

In another presentation, Parks and Recreation Director Damon Messina and local resident Tom Hewlett delivered a presentation on how the Rails to Trails project would impact the community. Interest has peaked to resurrect the rails to trails project along the CSX rail line. The rail line stretches 13 miles (approximately 182 acres) through High Springs and south of Newberry.

Hewlett talked about the environmental impact of the CSX line saying that the trail links fragmented habitats and has been protecting native plants and animals and is providing a corridor for animal movement. “Since the 1800s, this line has been a wildlife refuge,” said Hewlett. “We can’t lose this to someone who might buy it and develop it or use it for agriculture,” he said.

Hewlett spoke about the different types of contaminants associated with rail lines and reviewed the methods by which railway pollution can be managed. Capping of the land, removal of the soil and landscaping over the pollution are the only ways of dealing with it, he said.

By capping it, the property can be used as a destination and will provide recreation opportunities for citizens and visitors while maintaining the corridor environmentally. Hewlett maintains that the costs associated with land acquisition, trail construction and trail maintenance are far outweighed by the economic benefits of the trail. Hewlett said if the City owns that land, mitigation can occur to protect the citizens and create a rail trail to benefit High Springs’ tourism-based economy.

City staff has had preliminary discussions with Alachua County regarding the project and potential funding. Previous funding for the project from the County is no longer available but appears amenable to exploring the project again and looking into funding possibilities. City staff is in the process of setting up a meeting with CSX to explore their willingness to provide easements for the trail or sell the property.

Messina said, “The rail line is in the center of our town and will provide a significant economic impact to our City.” “High Springs is the corridor to the springs, and I believe establishing this trail will greatly impact tourism.”

The City plans to bring up the possibility of re-establishing the rails to trails project when they meet with Alachua County Commissioners in a joint meeting on April 8.

Annual Police Report

The final presentation by High Springs Police Chief Antoine Sheppard was the detailed 2020 Annual Police Report.

The report is an overview of the police department’s statistical data involving crime, objectives, goals, staffing patterns and community outreach projects for the 2020 year. The presentation included crime data information from the last eight years concerning non-violent and violent crime. Non-violent crimes decreased by 61.2 percent and violent crime by 21.4 percent. “The overall crime rate has been reduced by 55 percent,” Sheppard said.

Calls for service data indicate status quo level of service calls for the last four years with a range of 6,000 – 6,500 service calls.

The agency’s objectives are centered on increased training in implicit bias, de-escalation training, accreditation and the procurement of body-worn cameras. “Proposed budgeting and solicitation of grants should be adequate to accomplish those goals,” said Sheppard.

The department is comprised of 18 sworn full-time police officers, three sworn reserve police officers and three civilian staff members, with no vacancies since 2017. Full-time officer positions are filled by 89 percent male officers and 11 percent female officers. Racial demographics indicate 67 percent Caucasian officers, five percent Hispanic Officers and 28 percent African American Officers.

Sheppard pointed out that the department had only two days to prepare for the Black Lives Matter protest in which to formulate an operational plan to support the protestors’ First Amendment rights and balance concerns of citizens’ property and safety. He reported that the event was peaceful.

Sheppard said that the HSPD continues to lead the area in community involvement. He pointed to Operation Holiday Cheer, involvement in Farm Share food distribution and some of the community cookouts and events the department conducts annually to help keep in touch with citizens.

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