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NEWBERRY – Newberry City Commissioners unanimously approved an ordinance on first reading to adopt a Property Rights Element into the City’s Comprehensive Plan as required by a new state law that officially became effective July 1, 2021.

Based on the new state statute, the City was advised to immediately begin the large scale Comprehensive Plan amendment process to adopt a Property Rights Element under the state’s Expedited Review provision.

Due to this new statute, all other plan amendment applications that have not already been heard by the Planning and Zoning Board prior to July 1, as well as associated rezoning applications that are contingent upon approval of such plan amendments, are temporarily on hold.

Now that first reading of this ordinance has been approved by the City Commission, the ordinance will be immediately transmitted to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) for expedited state review.

Newberry planner Wendy Kinser-Maxwell provided a schedule of anticipated dates in the review and approval process. “DEO and other state agencies have a 30-day period for review,” Kinser-Maxwell said. Depending upon the state’s response date, the Commission may hear this ordinance on second reading and adoption at either their Sept. 9 or Sept. 27 meeting. Following enactment, plan amendment applications may proceed as usual.

County Solid Waste Services

Commissioners also approved an ordinance on first reading authorizing the continued levying of a Municipal Services Benefit Unit (MSBU) to provide solid waste services to the City. Director of Finance and Administration Dallas Lee said the rate for residential customers in fiscal year 2021-22 would remain the same as this year, which is $20.47.

The MSBU covers the costs included in the County’s landfill tipping fee for the County’s hazardous waste program, waste alternatives office and partial costs of the five county-wide rural collection centers, plus administration and billing costs associated with the assessment. This fee is collected along with other property taxes once a year by Alachua County.

Also discussed was the status of the County placing another rural collection center in the Newberry area. City Manager Mike New said the location being considered is not owned by the City. He said the City and County will be drawing up a Memorandum of Understanding and will also need to negotiate the acquisition of the land, which he hopes to have accomplished by the end of 2021. Another joint meeting will take place later in the week.

Development Fee Refunds Due

Planning and Economic Development Director Bryan Thomas presented information about three companies that had started businesses in Newberry that he believes qualify for a refund of commercial development fees, which were established by the Commission in 2019 to stimulate economic development in Newberry.

Resolution 2020-29 provided up to a maximum of $30,000 per project for refunds of development fees. The three primary criteria for qualification are the architectural design style, new job creation and new capital investment in the City.

Stonehouse Grill, a newly constructed restaurant in the Florida Vernacular style in the commercial plaza in Country Way at Newberry Town Center created approximately 45 full and part-time jobs and the capital investment in the project exceeds $2 million. The Stonehouse Grill project paid a total of $60,039 in development fees. Thomas said the maximum allowable refund would be $30,000.

Alpha Omega Training and Compliance (A.O.T.C.) facility is a newly-constructed industrial structure located in the Newberry Commerce Park. After review, City staff found that A.O.T.C. met two of the three criteria.

Although the A.O.T.C. facility is not designed in the Florida Vernacular style, they created approximately 13 full and part-time jobs. The capital investment in the project is approximately $1 million and they paid a total of $9,174 in development fees. “The maximum allowable refund would be $9,174,” Thomas said.

The Town Center Storage facility is a newly constructed office-retail center with several self- storage structures located at the southwest corner of State Road 45 and Southwest 15th Avenue. Town Center Storage also meets two of the three criteria. This business created seven full and part-time jobs and made a capital investment in the project of approximately $1.2 million.

The Town Center Storage project paid a total of $10,539 in development fees. Thomas reports that the maximum allowable refund would be $10,270.

Program Funds available for refunds is $50,000 and the total of all three applicant reimbursements is $49,444. The Commission approved all three applications.

Following approval of the commercial development fees, Thomas asked Commissioners to approve Resolution 2021-18 to extend the same program into fiscal year 2021-22. Commissioners unanimously approved the resolution with the stipulation that applicants must apply within two years after receiving their Certificate of Occupancy.

Fire Protection

During the July 15 Commission meeting Fire Chief Ben Buckner explained the use of the Quint (quintuple) apparatus owned by the City and told Commissioners that the 22-year-old Quint was nearing the end of its useful life. He listed alternatives to replace, refurbish or purchase a new apparatus.

During the Aug. 9 meeting he again addressed the issue. Although the apparatus has been well maintained, it is fast approaching the end of its service life.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends front line apparatus more than 15 years old be placed in reserve status and those that are 20-25 years old be replaced. Some repair and replacement parts for Newberry’s Quint are becoming scarce, particularly for the aerial device.

Also during the July 15 meeting, Commissioners set a preliminary fire assessment rate for fiscal year 2021-22 at $195 for residential properties, hoping to be able to reduce the rate or set it at the previous year’s rate of $175. Buckner and Lee presented alternatives and the amount of increase over last year’s fire assessment rate that would be required to accommodate each alternative.

Refurbishing the current Quint would result in a $7.60 increase, while purchasing a new Quint apparatus and trading in or selling the current Quint would result in a $15 Fire Assessment increase. Purchasing a used Quint and trading in or selling the current Quint would result in a $12 increase and purchasing a used fire engine and trading in or selling the current Quint would result in a $7.60 Fire Assessment increase.

All options would still result in an increase in the Fire Assessment. After discussion, Commissioners opted for purchasing a new Quint, which would likely result in a Fire Assessment of $190, but would provide the highest quality of public safety and the best long-term alternative.

Buckner said that delivery of a new Quint would take 13 – 14 months, so it would not be available until 2023.

New cautioned that the final fire assessment rate had not yet been determined and to hold off on ordering a new Quint until such time as it has received Commission approval.

Board Vacancy

One agenda item was tabled to the Aug. 23 meeting. An influx of 12 applicants to fill one vacancy on the Planning and Zoning Board and Historic Architectural Review Board led to the mayor suggesting that Commissioners meet individually with applicants and get to know them before voting on a new board member. The appointee will serve the remainder of Bill Conrad’s current term, which expires on April 30, 2022. Conrad stepped down when he moved out of Newberry.

Applicants include Ron Barlow, Anthony Cousins, Travis Edmond, Jordan Fairfield, Joy Glanzer, Walter Hawkins, Joy D. Ingram, Donald Long, Margaret (Peggy) Loy, Kim Robbins, Janeice Marshall Smith and Lisa Tate.

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