NEWBERRY ‒ Area residents expressed anger and concern Monday night at the joint City of Newberry and Alachua County Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) meeting about a proposed Hazardous Waste Rural Collection Facility that would be located between Newberry and High Springs on SR 27/41. The meeting took place at Easton-Newberry Sports Complex the evening of June 28.
Sixteen residents, many of whom were from High Springs, addressed their concerns, explaining why the proposed location was wrong for this type of facility. Reasons cited included the school bus stop at the proposed site, a blind spot for drivers in the area and the residential nature of the neighborhood.
As the County was still in its due diligence period on the proposed site, County Commissioner Merihelen Wheeler made a motion to discontinue the due diligence period on the proposed site and allow the option contract to expire. County Commissioner Mary Alford seconded the motion and it passed 4-0 with County Commissioner Charles Chestnut absent.
Newberry Mayor Jordan Marlowe suggested a site in Newberry that might suit the County’s needs, and County Commissioner Anna Prizzia moved to direct staff to explore the option with Newberry as well as other locations. That motion passed unanimously with a 4-0 vote as well.
In other business, although the Newberry Community Redevelopment Agency Redevelopment Plan was on the evening’s agenda, it was not considered at this meeting. Instead, it will be heard at the BoCC’s August meeting to allow time for County staff to review it.
Alachua County Fire Rescue Chief Harold Theus addressed the issue of the Trunk Radio System. Theus explained the history of the contract agreement between GRU and the County and why the County is exploring other options. According to previous comments from Newberry City Manager Mike New, this is not impacting Newberry as much as it might some of the other cities as they are paying less than $1,000 annually. Although the topic was discussed, no action was taken at this meeting.
Another issue discussed, but for which no action was taken, was the potential extension of Wild Spaces Public Places (WSPP) Surtax with the inclusion of Housing and Infrastructure Projects. The WSPP surtax is an eight-year half-cent sales tax which is scheduled to sunset Dec. 31, 2024.
There is interest in potentially extending WSPP in 2024 for an additional eight years. One option proposed by the County is to add another half-cent for housing and infrastructure for 10 years on the 2022 ballot so both would sunset on Dec. 31, 2032. No action was taken on either issue during this meeting.
When it came to the discussion of the proposed Residential Rental Unit Permit and Inspection Program, Mayor Jordan Marlowe and several of the Newberry Commissioners expressed disagreement, preferring an opt-in option.
One concern regarding potential issues with the permit and inspection program was that it might involve too much oversight. Other concerns raised included that codes enforcement officers would be put in a position where they have to act as referees between the property owner and tenant, liability concerns and that the measure would cause even more of a housing crisis than currently exists. No action was taken during this meeting.
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