NEWBERRY – The City of Newberry has scrapped plans to lure the Alachua County Fairgrounds to the Canterbury Showplace equestrian center located within the city. The decision to drop the proposal was confirmed Monday as commissioners voted to approve sending a letter to the county, stating that they will no longer pursue the fairgrounds project.
City manager Keith Ashby said the letter will be sent out sometime this week and that the county should already be expecting withdrawal. However, Ashby said the city will continue pursuing the acquisition of Canterbury.
During an Alachua County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) meeting held Nov. 22, the board said that the fairgrounds should be the number one priority for the tourist development tax funding in Gainesville. Assistant County Manager Richard Drummond referenced Newberry’s previous interest, but suggested a revised plan. Newberry was not cited in the fairgrounds’ future plans, hinting that the city had lost its interest before the official motion was made. Drummond said as of the day of the meeting, Gainesville could not afford a $20 million new fairground.
Drummond said more detailed plans will be provided in January and his goal is to bring the overall cost of the first phase of the fairgrounds down to $14 million. Board members also expressed concerns that Gainesville residents might be upset if the fairgrounds moved out of the city as it was previously promised it would stay in the area.
Even if Newberry wanted to acquire Canterbury and the fairgrounds, a number of residents have expressed their disapproval of a carnival-like atmosphere at the equestrian center, dating back to September during a town hall meeting.
In past meetings, Newberry city commissioners have said they didn’t want a fairgrounds if residents opposed it, and also worried about the safety issues it could bring.
For now, if Newberry officials want to save Canterbury from being purchased by a private party, it appears the city will have to fork out potentially millions of dollars. The last purchase price bandied about in September was $4 million or more.
What is next for Canterbury is unknown, as city commissioners plan to discuss the matter at future meetings.
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