ALACHUA – The Alachua County Commission reopened discussions on proposed changes to the Boundary Adjustment Act (BAA), a special law that regulates annexations in Alachua County. Passed by the State Legislature in 1990 as an answer to rein in growing urbanized areas outside of city limits, the Act is unique to Alachua County and does not apply to any other area of the state.
The local delegation to the State Legislature declined to introduce earlier proposed changes in 2009 after two municipalities spoke against it.
One of the suggested amendments is to change how frequently the urban reserve areas are reviewed. Under the Act, a reserve area is the unincorporated property around a given city that is urbanized or expected to become urbanized. Property within a municipality’s urban reserve area is supposed to be primed for future annexation under the terms of the Act. County officials are proposing that reserve areas are reviewed and updated every 10 years rather than every five years as the Act currently requires, said Ken Zeichner, Alachua County’s principal planner.
Also proposed is creating a new section to make it easier to process the annexation of enclaves, which are unincorporated areas surrounded by land that is part of a municipality. In part, the Act aims to reduce and prevent enclaves as they often create confusion and difficulty in determining what entity is responsible for providing various services to the parcels of land, including police and fire protection.
The county’s appointed committee reviewed the Act in 2008-2009.
Alachua County Commissioner Chuck Chestnut, who was a member of the State Legislature at the time, explained how earlier proposed changes failed to make it into the BAA.
Chestnut said although the amendments had unanimous support from the municipalities, changes failed after commissioners from High Springs and Micanopy went to Tallahassee and spoke against it.
“They thought if they spoke against it that it would end the Boundary Adjustment Act in Alachua County – period,” Chestnut said.
The local delegation to the State Legislature decided in 2009 that unless the county and all nine municipalities agreed, then they were not going to introduce the bill.
The Alachua County Commission hopes to minimize dissent and that all nine municipalities in the county will support the proposed revisions to the BAA. But uniform support for changes doesn’t appear to exist. Jean Calderwood, the former mayor and commissioner of the City of Alachua, said she favors complete repeal of the Act. Pointing to more evolved state laws that now exist, she said the BAA is simply too cumbersome.
At the time the Act was first adopted, Florida’s general laws did not provide for certain planning mechanisms. In the time since the early 1990s, however, the State has vastly expanded its planning and annexation laws, which apply to the rest of Florida, Calderwood argues.
“My position is that it still should be repealed and not revised,” Calderwood said, noting that the state’s general annexation and planning laws are sufficient.
At one time, she was also a member of the county’s taskforce charged with proposing revisions to the Act and removal of outdated language.
The Boundary Adjustment Act makes annexation slower and more expensive than the general statute. It only affects citizens who want to annex their property voluntarily into another city in the county, she said.
LaCrosse officials too have had their concerns with the boundary adjustment act.
Mayor Dianne Dubberly said her city ran into difficulty when they tried to annex a property known as “Praise Ranch.” She said if the county doesn’t believe the annexation request is compliant with the Act then it can protest. If it can’t otherwise settle the dispute, then the county can take the annexing city to court – as it did. It was eventually annexed, but it came with hefty legal fees that can strap a small city, said Dubberly.
The town council has expressed an interest in seeing the entire Boundary Adjustment Act repealed and going with the state statute that addresses annexation, Dubberly said.
“We [Alachua County] are the exception to the rule,” she said. “Everyone else is going by the state rule.”
# # #
alachuatoday.comAdd a comment