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NEWBERRY ‒ The City of Newberry has made it known that it opposes the “County Charter Amendment Establishing County Growth Management Area” and went so far as to pass a resolution on Aug. 24 regarding that opposition. On Oct. 1, The Newberry City Commission went a step further by proposing to authorize funds for litigating and advertising to educate and inform the public about Alachua County’s proposed Charter referendum and how it will impact Newberry, as well as all of the smaller communities within Alachua County.

The specific Charter Amendment of concern is referred to on the ballot as the “County Charter Amendment Establishing County Growth Management Area.” The issue centers on the concern that the amendment, if approved by the voters, will restrict the ability of municipalities to determine the appropriate uses for property within their jurisdiction after annexing property from the County into their cities.

The Florida Constitution provides for Home Rule. The governing article reads: “Municipalities shall have governmental, corporate and proprietary powers to enable them to conduct municipal government, perform municipal functions and render municipal services, and may exercise power for municipal purposes except as otherwise provided by law.”

Each city, including Newberry, considers this authority to be fundamental to all Florida municipalities and they believe that local elected officials make the best decisions about commercial, residential, recreational and conservation development within their own communities.

Newberry’s Commissioners believe that the amendment, as it has been drafted, is averse to the fundamentals of home rule and undermines their ability to govern. By adopting this ordinance, they also agree that the proposed amendment eliminates the ability of municipalities to determine land uses that allows them to chart their unique course of development and differentiate themselves from other local communities.

Further, they believe the amendment discourages businesses from moving into the community as the City will not have control over land use policies. It negatively impacts the City’s ability to attract citizens deciding where to live and raise their families based on the look and feel of the community, which is in large part a result of local land use decisions. Commissioners also believe that the proposed amendment adds an extra, unnecessary level of bureaucracy to its citizens.

The ordinance, if approved on second reading, will allow the City of Newberry to expend public funds for an electioneering communication that is limited to factual information and does not expressly advocate for an issue.

The City of Newberry opposes the passage of the proposed amendment and opposes its application within their city as they stated in a resolution previously passed by the City Commission on Aug. 24. Also, the City opposes the passage of the proposed amendment for the reasons spelled out in a suit filed by the City of Alachua, v. Alachua County, Florida, et al. in which the City of Alachua is seeking injunctive relief from the Circuit Court.

During the Oct. 1 meeting Commissioners also received information from the city attorney as to how to best communicate the pros and cons of the issue to the public. One item of note is that Commissioners are free to express their own personal opinions in person, on their own media page or in letters to the editor, etc., but are not allowed to use public funds to advocate for or against this or any other issue on the ballot.

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