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HIGH SPRINGS ‒ The City of High Springs is poised to formally join the cities of Alachua, Archer and Newberry to approve an ordinance on second and final reading to litigate against one of Alachua County’s proposed Charter Amendments. The amendment titled, “County Charter Amendment Establishing County Growth Management Area,” if approved by the voters on Nov. 3, would limit each municipality’s right to home rule guaranteed to them by the Florida Constitution.

In addition, approval of the ordinance will allow the City of High Springs to use public funds to educate its citizens about the referendum. The City Attorney emphasized that although the City Commission approved Ordinance 2020-12, they are not allowed to use those funds to tell the voters how to vote. What it does allow the City to do is to explain how the amendment would impact their city should it pass.

In response to Alachua County’s proposed amendment, which is listed on the Nov. 3 ballot as, “County Charter Amendment Establishing County Growth Management Area,” the City of Alachua filed suit against the County seeking injunctive relief. The case, referred to as City of Alachua v. Alachua County, Florida, et al., was heard on Oct. 14 by Circuit Court Judge Donna M. Keim.

High Springs City Attorney Scott Walker reported to City Commissioners that the judge determined that the County’s Charter Review Commission should be added to the lawsuit. “Now the City of Alachua has amended their pleading to do that. Alachua County, the Charter Review Board and the City of Alachua have agreed that there would be a very abbreviated process to go to summary judgment hearing on Nov. 24.”

“If voters approve the amendment, the lawsuit will go forward. If the voters don’t approve the amendment, no further action will take place,” said Walker.

He said that voters are confused by the amendment because it doesn’t state how approval will impact Home Rule. In addition, state regulations indicate that amendments can’t be more than 75 words. “In English, it meets the criteria. In Spanish, it is 90 words,” he said. “It’s going to be interesting to see how that issue will be determined.”

On Monday the City Attorney will file lawsuits on behalf of the cities of Archer and Newberry. “Micanopy may be interested, as might the City of Waldo and the Town of LaCrosse,” Walker said.

He asked the City Commissioners to also include in their motion to approve the ordinance their authorization to allow him to file suit on behalf of the City of High Springs.

Mayor Byran Williams had to leave the meeting, but rejoined later. Commissioner Scott Jamison was out of town. Therefore, neither one was present to vote on that issue during the Oct. 22 meeting. The remaining three Commissioners indicated they were not comfortable making that motion without the full Commission present. However, the consensus between them was that the missing commissioners would likely vote to take that action had they been available. The topic will be placed on the next meeting agenda for a future vote.

Commissioner Nancy Lavin moved and Commissioner Linda Jones seconded a motion to approve Ordinance 2020-12 allowing use of public funds to educate the public regarding the amendment. The motion received unanimous approval.

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