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ALACHUA – The City of Alachua Commission passed three ordinances Monday night allowing for the creation of the new zoning designation “Corporate Park” and the rezoning of previously agricultural and industrially zoned property to the newly created Corporate Park zoning.

Corporate Park zoning is the designation for a multi-use area, allowing residential and commercial endeavors to coexist with biotechnology firms. The UF Foundation may develop the newly rezoned area, which was created specifically for biotechnology research and development and is intended to be used for a campus-like atmosphere featuring housing and research buildings together.

The site could potentially host a medical radioisotope laboratory, a research facility producing radioactive isotopes to diagnose and treat diseases. Located east of NW 140th Street and west of the San Felasco Hammock Preservee State Park, the 275-acre property is near the Shaw Farms neighborhood.

If UF Foundation doesn't develop the land, having the new zoning designation would be “tools in the toolbox” for the city, said City of Alachua attorney Marian Rush.

Gerry Dedenbach, planning director for Causseaux, Hewett & Walpole, representing UF Foundation said that Alachua has a strong foothold in the biomedical field through Progress Corporate Park.

Alachua also has assets such as UF's Sid Martin Biotechnology Incubator and Santa Fe's Perry Center for Emerging Technologies. A new biotech corporation would bring in additional jobs to the city and create a “live, work, play” environment, Dedenbach said.

Alachua resident Carol Thomas asked if the rest of the city's citizens would be allowed access to possible accessories included in Corporate Park, such as swimming pools. Mayor Gib Coerper responded that the corporation would allow public access to trails and parks in the area, but anything on private property would have the same exclusivity as any other private property. “You can't just go in and hang out,” he said.

Still, development on the land may include restaurants and retail stores open to the public.

A safety concern was raised about whether there was a possibility for contamination of nearby land and water. One audience member asked how anyone could be certain that the groundwater would be safe if there has never been a radioisotope lab in the country before.

Dedenbach said that the products would be manufactured deep inside of biologically secure labs, and that the products would be of a pharmaceutical grade. He said they would be regulated by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

He also added that there would be security guards 24/7, so no one could simply walk into the labs.

The property is in proximity to Progress Corporate Park and would allow for people to walk between both areas. The development would be a “pedestrian-oriented environment,” according to city planner Brandon Stubbs.

Homeowners from Shaw Farms spoke about the importance of them having a voice in the process of the new development. One homeowner said he wanted to see provisions making sure that the area remains clean.

“The fear is we're getting run over,” said another homeowner, Robert Hamilton.

Commissioner Robert Wilford agreed that those were valid concerns, and that a buffer zone should be created between the development and the neighboring residential areas.

Mayor Gib Coerper said that he is “proud that this thing has been brought to us.” He added that his son moved away because he couldn't find a job in Alachua, and he likes the idea of students studying in the city and then staying with new job opportunities.

Commissioner Orien Hills said, “I like the concept.”

A fourth ordinance relating to the rezoning was deferred to a later date.

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ALACHUA – City commissioners unanimously approved an interlocal agreement between the City and Alachua County, which would allow the city to use $500,000 of Alachua County Tourist Development Council tax funding toward an expansion of the Hal Brady Recreation Complex.

Last month, county commissioners preliminarily agreed to provide the funding, which was needed for the 105-acre expansion. The county’s contribution of $500,000 is being taken from bed taxes, fees collected on hotel, motel, campground and similar rentals. The total cost of the land purchase is $1.2 million.

Part of the agreement requires the construction of three sports fields within a three-year period. Construction must be finished by Jan. 1, 2015. Then there will be an additional three years to increase operations before an analysis on the amount of tourism generated from the facilities will be conducted.  The city expects construction of the three fields with lighting and seating to cost about $300,000.

After the measure was approved, Mayor Gib Coerper said he would like to “invite everyone to go down there,” and jokingly said to commissioners, “Thank you gentlemen for not opposing.”

One audience member said there is a strong need for a swimming pool in the community and pointed out that the city logo has a swimmer on it but there is no place to swim. She suggested that the sports complex should include a public pool to host swimming lessons and events.

Known as “Project Legacy,” the expansion of the recreation land was made possible through private donations, the county’s $500,000 contribution and $500,000 from Wild Spaces, Public Places.

Approval of the agreement will allow the city to close on the purchase of the property by a Dec. 31 deadline.

City commissioners also gave approval for City Manager Traci Cain to move forward with the purchase of the property.

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HIGH SPRINGS – Newly elected High Springs commissioners will be sworn in on Thursday, Nov. 17. The commission will also elect the city’s mayor and vice mayor.

Political newcomers Bob Barnas and Linda Clark Gestrin defeated incumbents Larry Travis and Byran Williams in the Nov. 8 general election. Neither have held political office,although they both ran unsuccessfully for commission seats in 2010.

Travis had been serving as mayor and had not been defeated since his election to the commission in 2005. Vice Mayor Williams had served on the commission for six years, though he briefly lost his seat in 2009.

After a heated campaign, Gestrin said now it is “time to get down to business.” Both commissioner elects have called for a new direction and have said they will be making policy decisions soon.

At the Nov. 17 meeting, the new commission will discuss a variety of topics affecting the City of High Springs including appointing members to various commission boards, discussing possible management of Poe Springs Park and exploring the option of extending the City’s sewer line along the U.S. Highway 441 corridor as a joint project with the City of Alachua.

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NEWBERRY – After several weeks of discussion, the Newberry City Commission has set new rental fees for use of the Newberry Municipal Building.

To reserve the building, located at 25439 West Newberry Road in downtown Newberry, the renter has to put down a $100 security deposit.  The deposit will be returned within 72 hours after a satisfactory inspection and key return, according to the resolution.  A $350 fee plus tax was set as the daily rental rate, and adding extra time will be assessed at $175 per day. The rental fee will be waived for all city-related organizations, groups and committees.  The City will require a 24-hour cancellation notice for refund of the deposit.

A nonrefundable cleaning fee has also been added.  The fee, originally required for all groups and events, even those city-related ones, was changed and will be levied at the City’s discretion. Commissioner Lois Forte had argued against the fee for all groups, noting that senior citizen activities are held at the building weekly and that they always clean after themselves.

Commissioner Alena Lawson agreed that some groups familiar to the City and known for being tidy should not be required to pay. She added that if food is being served then it may be necessary to impose the fee.

Commissioner Robert Fillyaw suggested that the City should use its discretion when deciding who must pay the cleaning fee at the time of the rental.

The fee structure also provides for the City to impose an extra $500 for high-impact functions. Sondra Randon, city attorney assistant, explained that the charge would not be a fee, but a deposit for events that might cause damage to the building.

“It’s a security deposit that would be refundable if damage is not done,” Randon said.

The City is also making Internet access available for a $25 daily fee.

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WALDO – As Jim Hamby’s daughter leaves to go to college, he will not worry about having an empty nest at home. In fact, his nest will be full –– of feathers.

Hamby plans to have chickens and maybe even a goat on his property. Thanks to an ordinance passed by the Waldo City commission, residents of Waldo will now be able to house two chickens, one goat and one beehive on their land.

Hamby works at Shands at the University of Florida as an IT specialist of radiation oncology, but when he gets home to his three-acre property, he will become a farmer, he said.

“I want to do a little farming, but not the 6 in the morning to the 6 at night stuff,” he said. “Raising chickens will be fun for me and my wife.”

Hamby was one of two residents to request the right to raise domestic animals on their properties. The ordinance was discussed in October, and was unanimously passed Tuesday.

“When I went to City Hall to see if I could have these chickens, they said there couldn’t be any farm animals raised in the city,” he said. “I thought to myself ‘but this is Waldo!’”

When his daughter leaves home to attend Santa Fe College, Hamby hopes to have two chickens and one goat live on his property, he said. Hamby’s wife, Stephanie Priutt, convinced him to do it.

“This house is my wife’s little castle,” he said. “She loves animals and is kind of a country girl. It just made sense to raise them.”

The ordinance mandates that chicken coops should be placed a minimum of 10 feet from the rear and side property lines and a minimum of 40 feet from any residential home on adjacent properties. Chickens and goats must be kept in fenced areas, and chickens should be kept within the coop from dusk until dawn.

Beekeepers must be registered with the State of Florida and adhere to the Best Management Practices set forth by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Chickens and goats are not allowed to roam beyond their fenced areas, and no type of animal is allowed to be kept in any front yard.

Commission members said they wanted to ensure that no animals traveled on to other parcels of land. City Commissioner Rodney Estes thought of unusual methods to deter owners from letting their animals out of their properties.

“If my neighbor’s chicken roams in my yard, can I eat it?” he asked.

Hamby said the city government needs to set rules to protect the health and safety of Waldo citizens.

“We don’t want chickens running through people’s houses like they are from the ‘Beverly Hillbillies,’” he said.

If there is a violation, neighbors of the potential offender must call City Hall to report it. A city staff member will then go to the property to assess if a violation has occurred. The property owner would then receive education on how to raise these animals correctly, city planner Laura Dedenbach said.

Residential areas with low density, medium density and in the city center are now permitted to raise these domestic animals for nonprofit use. The commercial raising of these animals is only permitted for youth projects, such as with the Future Farmers of America.

Dedenbach said agricultural properties would not be affected.

“This ordinance is really pertaining to small residential lots only,” she said.

All three types of animals are permitted to live on the same property. Hamby said he hopes to eventually get each type of animal to expand his miniature farm.

“We will treat these chickens right, and then, if my wife allows me, we will eat them,” he said. “It really just depends on how attached she becomes to these chickens.”

He said he is delighted that Waldo’s City Commission decided to pass this ordinance, and that the city is a great place to live.

Hamby will continue to build the new coop that will house his newest residents.

“I guess the older you get, the more self-sufficient you want to be,” he said. “We are not trying to live only off the land or take ourselves out of society, but I would like to come home from work, tend my garden, raise my chickens, and then just relax.”

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HAWTHORNE – The Hawthorne City Commission worked to amend the city’s water and sewer regulations on Tuesday in an attempt to add money to the city’s depleted enterprise fund.

The Florida Rural Water Association, a professional association that aids small cities with their water rates, conducted a free rate study for the City of Hawthorne.  The study took over six months to complete and recommended water and sewer rates with a 15 percent profit margin to account for unforeseen circumstances and emergencies.

It was recommended that residential customers pay a base rate of $17 for water, and if they use under 3,000 gallons, they will pay $2 per 1,000 gallons used. If residents use 3,001 to 6,000 gallons, they will pay $2.50 per 1,000 gallons used. For each extra 3,000 gallons used, the water rate increases 25 cents per 1,000 gallons used.

Commercial water rates start with a base rate of $25.50, and customers who use under 3,000 gallons pay $2 per 1,000 gallons used. The same method is used where each extra 3,000 gallons result in an increase of 25 cents per 1,000 gallons used.

The water rate for irrigation is $2.75 per 1,000 gallons used.

The wastewater base rate is $38, which includes 3,000 gallons. After this amount is used the citizen would pay $5.92 per 1,000 gallons, which is based on the water usage.

There is a residential deposit fee of $200 that each residential customer must pay. The commercial deposit is $250. With the new system, there are no more surcharges.

When compared to other cities in the surrounding area, these water rates were lower than Waldo and Archer. The City of Alachua was the only city to have lower rates than Hawthorne’s projected ones.

However, Hawthorne had higher sewer rates than both the cities of Waldo and Alachua, where their base rates were $19.37 and $9.35 respectively. This compares to Hawthorne’s base rate of $38.

City Manager Ellen Vause said although it looks like a heavy increase from past water expenses, this increase is comparable with other rates in the county.

“The rates they recommended are well within the range that other cities are using around here,” she said.

Almost half of the citizens in Hawthorne use below 3,000 gallons, Vause said. The city hopes that this new rate change will be more accommodating than the one currently in use, where a citizen pays for 4,000 gallons of water, regardless if they actually use less.

Mayor Matthew Surrency said this system will help the old lady that lives alone pay less than the family of four that uses more water.

“Currently, if you are using 999 gallons, you are paying for 4,000,” he said.

The new rates provided by the Florida Rural Water Association will produce enough revenue to cover expenses and also put money into the city’s depleted reserve accounts, Vause said. Hawthorne is still in a state of financial emergency and has an unrestricted deficit of $1.2 million.

“Even with these rates, we still have yet to address our deficit,” she said.

There is no money set aside in case of an emergency, Vause added.

Dumpster fees were originally included with these rates, but commissioners amended this and opted to create a separate ordinance that will be discussed at a future meeting.

The motion to adopt the ordinance on first reading was passed with a 4-1 vote. Commissioner William Carlton provided the sole dissenting vote.

“Somewhere, I think the people need some relief if we can get it,” he said. Add a comment

AlachElemVetFor 20 years Alachua Elementary students have honored veterans at the school's Veteran's Day observance.  That tradition continued Wednesday morning as over 75 area veterans attended the school's celebration, which included speeches and patriotic songs.

ALACHUA – Carrying on a tradition than spans some 20 years, Alachua Elementary students honored veterans Wednesday at a school wide celebration.  Over 75 area veterans were recognized at the school’s annual Veterans Day Ceremony.

Invited as personal guests of students, staff and teachers, school principal Eva Copeland welcomed each veteran by name to Wednesday’s service held in their honor.

The annual ceremony dates back 20 years, and became a reality at the urging of longtime Alachua resident and D-Day veteran, the late Glynn Markham.  Markham died in May 2007, but his legacy lives on in the numerous veterans’ memorials and services he saw to fruition.

One of the reasons the ceremony is held is to make sure the students know why they have the day off, Copeland said.  “We are glad we can do this to help our students understand what Veteran’s Day means, who our veterans are, and why they are important to all of us.  We look at this as a teachable moment,” she said.

Three weeks prior to the ceremony, students took home a newsletter notifying parents about the ceremony.  Students invited their “veteran” to the ceremony and each student was introduced along with the sponsored veteran.  The 75-plus veterans attending the ceremony represented service from the 1940s through 2000 and were the mother, father, aunt, uncle, grandparent, spouse or friend of a student, teacher or staff member of the school.  As each veteran’s name was called, he or she received a rousing round of applause thanking them for their service.

Getting into the patriotic spirit, many students were decked out in red, white and blue, while some boys wore their Boy Scout uniforms and several girls wore Girl Scout uniforms.

Officially kicking off the ceremony was the University of Florida’s Naval ROTC Color Guard, conducting presentation of colors, which was followed by the pledge of allegiance.

Leading up to the event, the school conducted an essay contest with a patriotic theme.  Kayla Tyndall’s essay, “Proud to be an American,” was the winning essay, and she recited it Wednesday for the 500-plus students in 3rd, 4th and 5th graders, staff and guests.

Colonel Jack Paschal, Commander of the 202nd RED HORSE Squadron, Florida Air National Guard, shared information about the Guard’s mission of providing homeland defense and hurricane recovery for the State. He also brought oversized plaques displaying photos of actual projects the Guard conducted, and asked student volunteers to carry the plaques throughout the audience so they could better see the photos.

Shane Moore led the students in singing “God bless the USA” and the enthusiastic youngsters waved miniature flags in the air.

The ceremony concluded with a moment of silence and the playing of “Taps” in honor and remembrance of the many veterans who served.

After the ceremony, Copeland invited veterans and their hosts to join her in the school’s cafeteria for a reception sponsored by the school’s Safety Patrols.

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