02
Wed, Dec
410 New Articles

ALACHUA – The City of Alachua filed suit in circuit court against Alachua County Monday over a proposed charter amendment that, if approved, would dramatically change how growth is managed countywide. The measure is set to appear on the Nov. 3 general election ballot. The measure is roundly opposed by city commissions around Alachua county, but that has not stopped the Charter Review Commission from pushing it onto the ballot.

The Alachua County Charter Review Commission voted 10-2 to adopt CRC Resolution 2020-1, which includes a ballot summary purportedly informing the voters of the scope and effect of the amendment. If approved by voters, the charter amendment would essentially establish a so-called growth management area comprising a substantial majority of lands not currently within any city’s municipal boundaries.

The teeth of the amendment are in the details of the text, which essentially dictates that if a city annexes any of the growth management lands into its municipal boundaries, those lands will continue to be exclusively subject to the County’s Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Regulations. Under current law, once a city annexes a parcel of land into its corporate limits, that annexing city’s comprehensive plan and land development regulations govern zoning, growth and development of that annexed land.

The ballot summary states, “COUNTY CHARTER AMENDMENT ESTABLISHING COUNTY GROWTH

MANAGEMENT AREA. Shall the Alachua County Charter be amended, effective countywide, to establish a County Growth Management Area (“Area”), provide that the County’s comprehensive plan and land development regulations will exclusively govern land development in the Area, whether inside or outside municipal boundaries, authorize implementing ordinances, provide for removal of lands from the Area, and provide that the charter and implementing ordinances shall prevail over conflicting municipal ordinances?”

The City of Alachua’s chief complaint as laid out in the lawsuit is that the ballot measure violates Florida voting laws, specifically Florida Statute 101.161(1), which sets out rules for the language of a referendum such as the one proposed by the Charter Review Commission.

The lawsuit alleges that the ballot language is misleading because it gives the false impression that the main purpose of the amendment is to establish a growth management area, when in fact the primary purpose of the amendment is to stymie a municipality from using its own land use regulations. The City also states the ballot summary does not provide “fair notice” that the proposed amendment would modify current rules regarding annexed lands, most notably that a city would no longer be allowed to impose its own land use regulations and comprehensive plan.

The lawsuit goes on to allege that the ballot summary is “false and misleading” because it gives voters the false impression the amendment will result in the County’s planning regulations being applied to lands outside of a municipality, when, in fact, as it currently stands, the County’s planning regulations already govern development and zoning of lands which are not in the corporate limits of a municipality.

Going further, the City calls the ballot summary misleading because it does nothing with respect to the management of growth, but rather, it merely dictates who will have regulatory power, not what is to be done with that authority. And, the City says the ballot measure suggests that growth is not currently managed in areas in the so-called growth management areas or that it would not be managed if annexed into a municipality.

Indeed, the City states in the lawsuit that the amendment would undermine a city’s ability to impose more restrictive regulations to manage growth. The City also calls the Charter Review Commission’s use of the phrase, “Growth Management Area” improper political rhetoric in violation of Florida Statutes 101.161(1).

In its chief complaint, the City details numerous other grievances with the ballot measure, including the failure to inform voters that the amendment would establish actual boundaries for the so-called growth management area, failure to include a reference to the proposed boundary map, failure to inform voters that only by a super-majority vote of the Board of County Commissioners could lands be removed from the managed area. On a technical point, the City notes that the Spanish language translation of the ballot summary is 90 words, exceeding the 75-word limit established by state law.

In Count II and III of its complaint, the City states that the amendment fails to comply with Florida’s state constitution or state laws because the amendment could not “coexist” with existing state laws. In particular, the City points out that the charter amendment would impose the County’s land use regulations in conflict with Florida’s laws regarding municipal annexation and contraction, Florida Statutes 171.011 through 171.094. Additionally, Chapter 163 of Florida Statutes mandates that with respect to land use, a municipality “shall exercise authority” over lands within its boundaries, but the amendment, if approved, would preempt a city’s regulatory control over land use matters. Finally, the City alleges that proposed amendment conflicts with other parts of Chapter 163 which provide explicit procedures for the amendment of comprehensive plans.

The City asks the circuit court to provide temporary and permanent injunctive relief by invalidating the proposed charter amendment, striking it from the 2020 ballot, preventing the Supervisor of Elections from tabulating or certifying the results of the referendum and preventing the County from enforcing the amendment if approved by voters.

#     #     #

Email editor@

alachuatoday.com

Add a comment

HIGH SPRINGS ‒ In the theme of “bad news-good news,” Sharon Tugman, owner of Wisteria Cottage, recently closed her doors—that is the bad news.

On the good news side of the equation, Tugman donated all of the fine furnishings and remaining merchandise to the GFWC High Springs New Century Woman’s Club to help them earn enough money to make renovations to the clubhouse, which is located at 23674 West U.S. Highway 27.

On Aug. 22, the items went up for sale at the clubhouse and generated enough money to help them install a vinyl plank floor in part of the building to replace a worn and weary carpet. Some of the club members also chipped in to make that project possible.

Another project the club members took on is the installation of a concrete walkway at the front of the building.

“We are all so sorry to see Wisteria Cottage close as we know visitors and residents enjoyed the store for many years,” said one club member, “but the funds were put to good use.”

As it turns out not everything was sold during that sale. It is likely that the rest of the items will be listed for sale at the City-Wide Yard Sale, if it happens this year. If that doesn’t happen, the items will be up for sale whenever the club members can set up another sale.

#     #     #

Email cwalker@

alachuatoday.com

Add a comment

ALACHUA COUNTY ‒ Florida’s Elder Options SHINE (Serving Health Insurance Needs of Elders) program provides free, unbiased Medicare counseling and virtual Medicare classes to assist beneficiaries, families and caregivers.

Topics include: Medicare 101 (English & Spanish), Medicare Financial Assistance, Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage, Medicare Part C - Medicare Advantage Plans, Medicare & COVID-19, Navigating Medicare.gov, SHINE & Preparing for Open Enrollment, and Be Scam Smart (English & Spanish).

To speak with a counselor or join in one of the classes: call 1-800-963-5337; visit www.floridashine.org for class dates and times; email shine@agingresources.org to receive your invitation to register.

Elder Options is a non-profit agency that administers funds from the Florida Department of Elder Affairs for senior services in a 16-county area (Alachua, Bradford, Citrus, Columbia, Dixie, Gilchrist, Hamilton, Hernando, Lafayette, Lake, Levy, Marion, Putnam, Sumter, Suwannee and Union counties). Elder Options, mandated by the Federal Older Americans Act, exists to promote the independence, dignity, health, and well-being of elder citizens; to plan, fund and administer a coordinated continuum of services; and to advocate for the needs of older Americans.

#     #     #

Email editor@

alachuatoday.com

Add a comment

NEWBERRY ‒ There is a new restaurant in an old location in Newberry. In the historic downtown area, at 25405 W. Newberry Road, there stands a two-story brick building built in 1906. Originally the downstairs portion was a general store and upstairs was The Commercial Hotel.

At the time Newberry was a phosphate mining town and railroad junction that was established in the 1880s. As the town grew with over 16 mining operations in the area, more commercial brick buildings were built, including the hotel. Over the years it has had many incarnations and was home of the well-known Backyard BBQ restaurant for a number of years. Two years ago, the restaurant closed and the building sat vacant.

New owner Jamie Griffin has been in the restaurant business for 35 years, and he currently owns the Lighthouse in Fanning Springs and Bett's Big T in Chiefland.

Griffin spent two years renovating the building back to its original appearance. Now, from the brickwork to flooring, the restaurant reflects the way the building looked more than a century ago. Griffin is honoring the building’s rich history by naming the new eatery The 1906 Farmhouse Restaurant.

After the restoration, the restaurant opened its doors to the public on Sept. 17, 2020. The 1906 Farmhouse Restaurant will be open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day of the week for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The breakfast menu offers traditional breakfast platters, pancakes and waffles and omelets. The lunch menu features sandwiches, salads and burgers while the dinner menu offers chicken, steak and fried seafood platters along with sandwiches, salads and burgers.

Griffin says they will have blue plate specials that will rotate daily. On Fridays and Saturdays from 5 to 10 p.m., they will feature an all-you-can-eat seafood buffet that features crab legs for $26 per person. The restaurant also has a smaller kids menu as well as beer and wine for the adults.

Griffin lives in Fanning Springs where he has The Lighthouse restaurant, but now spends most of his time with the new restaurant.

“I am lucky with good managers at my other locations, which allows me to get this new restaurant off the ground. I felt that it would fit Newberry's character with its traditional country style fare. It’s a little country, a little steak, a little seafood,” said Griffin. “People in Newberry don’t have to go all the way out to Gainesville for food, but at the same time, people in Gainesville can take a trip out if they want to get away to the country.”

#     #     #

Email rcarson@

alachuatoday.com

Add a comment

NEWBERRY ‒ The City of Newberry conducted a public hearing to set a tentative rate of taxation on real and personal property and to determine the annual ad valorem taxes for the City for the 2020-21 fiscal year.

Newberry had conducted five budget workshops to discuss the budgets. Although time was allowed for public comment, no comments were offered by the public during this hearing.

The tentative millage rate of 5.9999 was announced by Director of Finance and Administration Dallas Lee along with a roll back rate of 5.8930. Lee said the percentage change of millage from the roll back rate is a 1.81 percent increase.

“The Commission approved a preliminary millage rate of 6.4501 on July 24. The tentative millage rate proposed is 5.9999, which is 1.81 percent more than the roll-back rate of 5.8930,” said Lee.

The City Commission cannot adopt a final millage rate higher than the tentative rate adopted. A millage rate higher than the rolled back rate will result in a Notice of Tax Increase, explained Lee.

City Manager Mike New said there was a $15,000 surplus available. He suggested that Commissioners could choose to save the surplus funds, put the money toward capital improvements or put the funds toward increased merit funds for employees, which would likely increase budgeted merit increases from 2.5 percent to 3.5 percent.

Following discussion, it was unanimously decided to direct the funds toward merit increases and allow the city manager to determine how those funds would be fairly expended.

The tentative millage rate was unanimously approved. A final hearing is scheduled for Sept. 28 at 7 p.m.

#     #     #

Email cwalker@

alachuatoday.com

Add a comment

ALACHUA ‒ The City of Alachua has been awarded the Florida League of Cities (FLC) Hometown Health Award that recognizes health members that meet the nine best practice standards for employee health promotion.

The FLC is government sector lobbying association and is a member of the National League of Cities (NLC), which is a advocacy organization that represents the country's 19,495 cities, towns, and villages along with 49 state municipal leagues. In Florida there are 411 participating municipalities. The FLC lobbies on both a state legislature and federal congressional level for programs and education that help cities improve their local government and living conditions of the towns’ residents.

The FLC recognition included "the City of Alachua has not only achieved great participation in Hometown Health, but has also demonstrated a true commitment to employee well-being. Employers play such a vital role in creating a workplace that supports a healthy environment and health conscious culture.”

FLC Health Account Executive Lindsey Larson presented the award to the City Commission at the Sept. 14, 2020 Commission meeting. She noted the City's accomplishments in safety training in all areas of city operations, special reviews and training by outside consultants, health screening and the City's support by contributing 50 percent toward health club memberships for employees.

The City maintains a variety of wellness incentive programs throughout the year. Most recently, a step challenge to encourage more active behaviors, was completed with great success. Participants electronically recorded walking step numbers for five straight weeks. The total number of steps recorded was a staggering 8,281,168, which is the equivalent of 3,845 miles. This is just one example of the programs administered by the City that promote a healthy and safe workforce. The award specifically recognized the efforts of the Compliance and Risk Management Department under the direction of Grafton (Cap) Wilson. Larson also cited the efforts of Compliance and Risk Management Coordinator Anne Marie DiRocco, Human Resource Manager Donna Meyers, and Lisa Freeman from the Human Resources Department and Robert Purdy, Safety Specialist for the City.

The Alachua City Commission has issued a proclamation commemorating Constitution Week. The Constitutional Convention Public Law 915 guarantees the issuing of a proclamation each year by the President of the United States designating Sept. 17 – 23 to be Constitution Week to celebrate and commemorate the drafting of the Constitution. At the Sept. 14 meeting the City Commission presented Kay Hall, Regent for the Gainesville Chapter of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution, with a proclamation announcing the recognition of Constitution Week.

In other business, the Commission turned their attention to financial matters and infrastructure. During the month of August 2020, the city manager presented the City Commission with the proposed FY 2020-21 budget by major fund types. The tentative budgets presented, at that time, totaled $40,644,612, which is $12,049,821 less than the FY 2019-20 amended budget of $52,694,433. The General Fund tentative budget is based on a tax rate of 5.3900 mills. This tentative millage rate is 4.83 percent more than the rolled-back rate of 5.1416 mills.

A final public hearing on these matters will be held at the Sept. 28, 2020 Commission meeting at 6 p.m. in Alachua City Hall, James A. Lewis Commission Chambers. The public is invited to add input at the meeting.

The Commission approved a bid for the City’s Roadway Improvements Project. On Aug. 5, 2020, the City solicited formal bids from qualified vendors to furnish all necessary equipment, supervision, labor, materials and incidentals to complete the City of Alachua FY 2020 Roadway Improvements Project. The City received seven bids. V.E. Whitehurst & Sons, Inc. was the lowest bidder with a Base Bid of $137,445 and an Alternate 1 bid of $61,755, for a total of $199,200. The Commission approved the bid with the stipulation that it cannot exceed $250,000.

The last order of business at the meeting was to approve state funding for the City's portion of Alachua County CARES Act Plan. The State of Florida Division of Emergency Management allocated $46.9 million in Federal CARES Act funding to Alachua County. Subsequently, on July 7, 2020, the County approved the Alachua County CARES Act Plan. The Alachua County CARES Act Plan, as amended on Aug. 3, 2020, designates $159,000 to the City of Alachua for COVID-19 response related expenses. The award will be used for personal protective equipment (PPE) and medical supplies, disinfecting public areas and facilities, quarantining health and public safety personnel, preparing public buildings for customers, homeless care, equipping public employees to telework and food delivery to housebound and elderly residents.

#     #     #

Email rcarson@

alachuatoday.com

Add a comment

NEWBERRY ‒ The Newberry City Commission has tentatively approved an increase in electric utility service rates. Commissioners conducted a legislative public hearing on first reading of an ordinance to amend and revise sections of the City’s Code of Ordinances.

During the five budget workshops held by Newberry, rate changes were proposed to modify electric rate charges. The changes were authorized by Commissioners at that time and were presented and approved during the Sept. 14 public hearing.

Director of Finance and Administration Dallas Lee presented Ordinance No. 2020-24 and reminded the Commissioners that the City establishes electric rates to generate revenue that will meet its operating expenses. Each year staff members evaluate utility rates at budget time to determine whether they need adjusting.

“Staff proposes an increase in its water and wastewater rates to ensure the funds operate in a self-sustaining manner,” Lee said.

“Residential electric rates were adjusted by 1.00 percent on the customer charge, for an average residential impact of $1 per month. Non-residential rates are proposed to be adjusted in a similar fashion,” said Lee.

Lee pointed out that even after the proposed rate changes the City will still offer competitive rates when compared to other utilities.

A second and final reading of the proposed increases will take place at the Sept. 28 Commission meeting.

#     #     #

Email cwalker@

alachuatoday.com

Add a comment

More Articles ...