A legislative delegation in Gainesville decided to move forward with a bill that would change the ways each of the nine cities in the county can annex territory.

State Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, and state Reps. Keith Perry, R-Gainesville, Elizabeth Porter, R-Lake City, and Clovis Watson Jr., D-Alachua met Friday, Jan. 10 to discuss repealing the Boundary Adjustment Act.

They voted 4-0 in favor of moving forward with the bill that would repeal the old law.

Passed in 1990 by the state legislature, the act only applies to Alachua County and was meant to control growth in urbanized areas outside of city limits.

The four legislators met at the Santa Fe Center for Innovation and Economic Development in front of citizens and officials from various cities.

Eight out of the nine municipalities in the county were in favor of repealing the law, with Gainesville being the only city in opposition.

The act sets aside urban reserve areas, zones that are urbanized or expected to be urbanized that a city can annex. It also establishes a process cities have to go through before annexation.

Gainesville is open to revising the act, but not eliminating it, said City Manager Russ Blackburn.

Thomas Hawkins, Gainesville city commissioner, worried that repealing the Boundary Adjustment Act could lead to conflict between cities over territory.

Former mayor of Alachua, Jean Calderwood, said the act is burdensome to private property owners who want to be annexed into a city.

“My position is that it should be repealed, period,” she said.

Under the Boundary Adjustment Act, a property owner has to prepare an urban services report that shows the city can properly provide utilities and services to the property.

The report then has to be adopted, meaning it must go through a public hearing process. The property owner must also pay to advertise for the public hearings.

“It can become costly to do that,” Calderwood said.

Under the general state law that applies to the rest of the counties in Florida, the property owner only has to prepare the report, she said. When the Boundary Adjustment Act was passed, the general statute governing the rest of the state was less developed.

The county is waiting to discuss the issue before adopting a stance, said county spokesman Mark Sexton.

There is a public workshop on Feb. 4 where the county commission can learn the details and historical information regarding the law, and debate the pros and cons, he said. On Feb. 18, there will be a joint meeting between the county and the Florida League of Cities.  

“We’re going to kind of hash it out at that point,” he said.

Current mayor of Alachua, Gib Coerper, said the current rules add a layer of bureaucracy that isn’t needed to the city planning process.

“It makes planning more expensive and time consuming,” he said.

Frank Ogborn, mayor of Archer, agreed.

“It’s an onerous level of government,” he said.

The City of Gainesville wants to keep the urban reserve areas established by the act, said Russ Blackburn, city manager.

Though the delegation voted to move forward with the bill repealing the Boundary Adjustment Act, it is still in an early process. The cities, county and state legislators will still engage in a dialogue to debate the issue. The bill would have to pass through the state legislature.

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