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HIGH SPRINGS ‒ Once again, the subject of building murals was the dominant and contentious theme at the High Springs Commission meeting. At the April 28 meeting, City Manager Ashley Stathatos and City Attorney Andrea Parker presented the results of their research on mural ordinances in other cities. Cities contacted included Gainesville, Sarasota, Lake Park and Ormond Beach, and findings revealed that murals are handled differently from city to city and there is no one way to address a mural ordinance.

Some commissioners did express concern that the murals should not be on the main entrance of a building, but rather on the sides or rear of the structure. Artwork submitted to the City should be drawn to scale and also include the size of the wall. Staff would be directed not to accept applications that were not complete. A suggestion was made to notify the public of the intended artwork on the City’s website and also to include a section on the website to show existing murals.

Winzoir Van Durr called in to say he was against mural painting. “If the paint is peeling or falling off the building, there should be a plan to remediate the damage by the artist.”

Commissioner Katherine Weitz was not present at the Commission meeting, but she did provide a letter in which she suggested that the City accept only one application at a time and that another application not be accepted until the first mural was completed and inspected.

Longtime resident Alice Brown said she wanted to stop the Walldogs mural group and thought approving one mural at a time would accomplish that goal and that she wanted input into the ordinance. City Attorney Parker said she would try to have a draft by the next meeting, but that a proposed final ordinance would not be ready by that time.

Christy Swilley remarked that it should be up to the person’s family whether their relative’s face is included in a mural, a consideration with which Parker and Stathatos seemed to agree.

Some cities have a blanket statement that murals are permitted by right while other cities allow for murals within certain parameters to be permitted by right with a mural application process. Of those, some cities require staff approval while others require commission or a multi-step approval process.

Sample ordinances of each type were included in Commission packets for the commissioners to review. In some cities mural applications were reviewed and approved by City staff. In other cities approval was done by either the Planning Board or the Commission. In some cities the historic board was part of the decision-making process, especially in the historic district.

Commissioner reviewed sample ordinances and Stathatos cautioned the Commission that the High Springs ordinance should include enough guidance for staff to be able to administratively review applications. Setting a reasonable fee for applications and keeping the review process content neutral were other considerations she mentioned.

The attorney and city manager said they believed they had enough information to formulate an ordinance for the Commissioners to consider.

In other business, final plat approval was given to Crockett Springs, owned by Double B Property, LLC. The property is located on some 72 acres and is east of County Road 236 and Northwest 210th Street. The proposed subdivision is served by well and septic and includes 12 single-family lots of approximately 4.20 - 4.99 acres. Stathatos said the plat meets all City regulations.

High Springs Police Chief Antoine Sheppard addressed a domestic violence protection ordinance proposed by the Alachua County Board of County Commissioners and suggested the City Commission vote to opt into the ordinance.

The County’s ordinance pertains to protections for victims of domestic violence and intimate partner violence and will be heard at the May 3 County Commission meeting.

The proposed new code provision authorizes survivors of domestic/dating/sexual violence to request their residential locks to be changed, and if the landlord fails to respond, the survivor can change the locks themselves. If the landlord changes the lock, the landlord can charge the tenant the actual costs associated with the change. The ordinance applies only in unincorporated Alachua County unless jurisdictions decide to opt in.

Sheppard said, “The ordinance was drafted in response to a presentation from Peaceful Paths regarding domestic violence in Alachua County.” With the City Commission’s vote to opt in, the City is now authorized to coordinate with the County on this matter.

High Springs may soon be restricting truck traffic in the city. Assistant City Manager Bruce Gillingham reported that he and the public works director had met with the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT). One topic discussed was an ordinance to restrict truck traffic on 186th Avenue (old U.S. Highway 27). FDOT requires that the City pass an ordinance for their review. “Once that’s done, they’ll get the signs together and we’ll start restricting truck traffic coming from U.S. 441 up to Main Street,” said Gillingham.

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