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NEWBERRY ‒ The City of Newberry has negotiated acquisition of property rights-of-way to make the long-awaited extension of Southwest 15th Avenue from Southwest 260th Street to County Road 337 a reality.

“The City has identified the best route for the extension, which contacts six parcels and four property owners,” said City Manager Mike New. One of the property owners is the City and the remaining three property owners are Paul K. and Tammy B. Coleman, James F. and Connie F. Coleman, Jason D. and Mary E. Coleman.

New received Commission authorization to enter into agreements to acquire the rights-of-way and land rights necessary to extend the roadway. The roadway extension is intended to reduce traffic congestion in the downtown area during school start and end times. “The roadway is envisioned to feature two paved travel lanes, sidewalks, streetlights, open swales and associated utilities,” said New. He estimates that the project would commence within 36 months.

The City has agreed to install a farm fence along the roadway to keep the property owners’ cattle on their property. Commissioner Rick Coleman recused himself from voting on this issue and the motion to approve received a 3-0 vote. Commissioner Mark Clark was not in attendance.

Wastewater Treatment Facility Expansion

Commissioners also authorized the acquisition of six parcels of vacant land totaling approximately 93.4 acres for the expansion of the City’s wastewater treatment facility. The negotiated price is $12,500 per acre for a total of $1,167,500. The property, which is currently owned by Barbara McElroy, is located south and west of the City’s current wastewater treatment facility site. The McElroy property is primarily used for hay production and cattle grazing.

The City is more than 75 percent complete with development of a Wastewater Facilities Plan, a document that identifies and recommends the facilities necessary to treat the City’s wastewater for 30 years. The Wastewater Facilities Plan identifies a need for 63 acres of additional land for effluent disposal of wastewater, plus an additional 15 acres for a biosolids processing site, for a total need of 78 acres. As the McElroy property totals 93 acres, it is larger than the City needs for the plant, but the property owner is not interested in selling a portion of the property.

Other potential uses for the 15-acre difference could include relocation of the City’s Public Works and Utilities Operations Center, development of a rural collection center, a meat processing facility or a firefighting training facility; the last three possible uses of which would be in partnership with Alachua County.

The proposed closing date is Dec. 31, 2021, or sooner. The City will provide the seller with a deposit of $50,000, which is contingent on approval by the City Commission. The City has agreed to continue to allow the seller to retain the right to cut from the property for a period and graze cattle up to one year. Other contingencies include acceptance of the results of a feasibility study/geotechnical exploration and funding approval by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD).

Two Florida Statute-required real estate appraisals were conducted on the property, which came in at $4,000 and $6,400 per acre. Based on those figures, Commissioners questioned the amount the City is paying per acre.

“Staff conducted independent comparisons of recent purchases of similar land tracts in Newberry and found unit costs of $12,088 and $16,064 per acre,” New said. He also said the City paid $10,000 per acre in 2009 to acquire property for its most recent wastewater plant expansion.

Expansion of the wastewater treatment facility is anticipated to be funded by Newberry development fees, the Florida State Revolving Fund loan program and the SRWMD. New said the City applied for a SPRINGS grant through the SRWMD in 2020 and is recommended for award of $750,000 for land acquisition. The agreement associated with the award is forthcoming he said.

Currently, the City is spraying wastewater effluent, which New said is not efficient. The City is considering constructing wetlands, which can use growing plants to help clean the wastewater and result in a park-like setting open to the public.

New said the City will hire a consultant to help determine the best use of the extra 15 acres of land not needed for the wastewater treatment facility.

State Road 26 One-Way Pairs Project

In other business, the Commission unanimously approved a resolution to send a letter to the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT)about the State Road 26 One-Way Pairs Project. FDOT has advised the City that they are about 60 percent of the way to completion of the design of the project, with a design completion date in April.

The letter requests local side street improvements to six north-south side streets to include asphalt, curbs and gutters, sidewalks and street lighting similar to the improvements scheduled on Northwest 255th Street.

The City would pay for additional design services to accommodate the City’s requests.

In addition, the letter requests pedestrian crosswalks at five intersections and one round about, golf cart crossings at Seaboard Drive and near Lois Forte Park and that FDOT amend its design for two street segments to accommodate changes to Seaboard Drive.

Relocation of the proposed parking area at the Newberry Cold Storage location to include Northwest 254th Street, the Municipal Building parking lot and a portion of Barry Park was also requested. The City also asks that FDOT convey from the City Hall campus and from First Baptist Church to the stormwater retention facility planned west of the railroad tracks near Northwest 3rd Avenue, amend the design of the stormwater retention facilities at Lois Forte Park to improve efficiency of land use and adjust the cul-de-sac terminus of Northwest 1st Avenue east of Northwest 264th Street.

Charter Officer Salary Increases

In other City business, charter officer annual evaluations were conducted and the results were reported during the meeting. Evaluation results are ranked to a possible five-point top ranking. Results were as follows: city attorney 4.94, city clerk 4.98 and city manager ranked 4.92.

As the city attorney is reimbursed via contract each year, his rate will be considered when negotiating a new contract. All employees achieving these high rates are awarded a four percent salary increase, which the city clerk and city manager will receive.

However, in the case of the city manager, he was awarded an additional 2.5 percent increase for two reasons. When he joined the City, New was given several items to complete. The last of them was recently accomplished with the finalization of the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) for Newberry.

“The City has worked tirelessly through the years to establish a CRA and that goal was finally accomplished,” said Mayor Jordan Marlowe.

Commissioners unanimously approved a resolution establishing the salary increases for the city manager and clerk.

Newberry City Hall will be closed Nov. 11 in observance of Veterans Day. The Commission will next meet on Nov. 22 and again on Dec. 13. City Hall will be open Dec. 20 – 22 and will be closed on Dec. 23. City Hall will also be open Dec. 27 – 29 and will be closed on Dec. 30.

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NEWBERRY – Newberry’s Planning and Zoning Board voted to recommend approval to the City Commission requests for a number of large- and small-scale amendments to the City’s Future Land Use Plan and related rezoning requests. The Commission is expected to consider the applications at the regular City Commission meeting of Nov. 22.

Ordinance 2021-71/CPA 21-12, a request by CHW Professional Consultants, agent for Tanglewood Properties of Gainesville LLC, owner, amends the City’s Future Land Use Plan Map by changing the future Land Use Classification on approximately 220 acres from Agriculture to Planned Development. The property is located south of West Newberry Road and west of Southwest 202nd Street. The request to recommend this item to the commission was approved in a 3-1 vote with Jessica Baker casting the dissenting vote. Board member Donald Long was not in attendance.

A related request, Ordinance 2021-72/LDR 21-19, is for the same 220 acres to amend the Official Zoning Atlas of the City’s Land Development Regulations by changing the zoning from Agricultural (A) to Planned Development (PD). This application to recommend approval to the commission received the same 3-1 vote, with Baker casting the dissenting vote a second time.

Ordinance 2021-57/CPA 21-23 represents another large-scale amendment to the City’s Future Land Use Plan Map to change approximately 254.18 acres from Alachua County Rural/Agriculture to City of Newberry Agriculture on property previously annexed into the City.

A second request on the same 254.18 acres, referred to as Ordinance 2021-58/LDR 21-32, is a rezoning application to change the zoning from Alachua County Agriculture (A) to City of Newberry Agricultural (A) to bring the property into compliance with the City’s regulations. Final approval of this rezoning request is contingent upon approval of the Comprehensive Plan Amendment by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) and approval on second reading by the city commission.

Planning and Economic Development Director Bryan Thomas explained that the property’s distance from the City’s water and sewer lines would make it unlikely that the property would be used for large-scale development any time in the near future.

Ordinance 2021-59/CPA 21-22 is a small-scale amendment to the Future Land Use Plan Map by changing the Future Land Use classification from Alachua County Rural/Agriculture to City of Newberry Agriculture on two parcels of land consisting of approximately 40 acres.

A related rezoning application represented by Ordinance 2021-60/LDR 21-31 is to change the zoning from Alachua County Agriculture (A) to City of Newberry Agricultural (A) on the same 40 acres. These parcels of land are located on the east side of Northwest 298th Street (county line) and along Northwest 32nd Avenue.

Ordinance 2021-61/CPA 21-24 is a request for a large-scale amendment to the Future Land Use Plan Map by changing the Future Land Use classification from Alachua County Rural/Agriculture to City of Newberry Agriculture on approximately 256.253 acres of land on five tax parcels known as Dudley Farm Historic State Park. The property is located approximately one-half mile east of Northwest 202nd Street on the north side of West Newberry Road.

If CPA 21-24 is approved by Commissioners upon first reading, the application will then be forwarded to the DEO for their approval prior to any further action by the City Commission.

An application to rezone the same 256.253 acres of land, referred to as Ordinance 2021-62/LDR 21-33, from Alachua County Agriculture (A) to City of Newberry Agricultural (A) received approval by the Planning and Zoning Board. However, final approval of the rezoning request is contingent upon approval of the previous Comprehensive Plan Amendment by DEO and approval on second reading by the city commission.

Ordinance 2021-63/CPA 21-20 is an application for a small-scale amendment to the Future Land Use Plan Map by changing the Future Land Use classification from Alachua County Rural/Agriculture to City of Newberry Agriculture on approximately 40 acres. The property is located approximately .72 mile north of West Newberry Road and approximately .75 mile west of Northwest 170th Street.

Contingent upon approval of 2021-63/CPA 21-20 was Ordinance 2021-64/LDR 21-29, an application to amend the zoning from Alachua County Agriculture (A) to City of Newberry Agricultural (A).

Ordinance 2021-67/CPA 21-19 is an application for a small-scale amendment to the Future Land Use Plan Map by changing the Future Land Use classification from Alachua County Rural/Agriculture to City of Newberry Agriculture on approximately 5.06 acres. The property is located on the west side of Southwest 282nd Street, approximately one-half mile south of Southwest 95th Road.

Also approved was Ordinance 2021-68/LDR 21-28, an application to amend the zoning from Alachua County Agriculture (A) to City of Newberry Agricultural (A). This application is contingent upon approval of Application CPA 21-19.

Ordinance 2021-69/CPA 21-21 is an application for a small-scale amendment to the Future Land Use Plan Map by changing the Future Land Use classification from Alachua County Rural/Agriculture to City of Newberry Agriculture on approximately 12.26 acres. The property is located on Southwest 226th Street and eight-tenths of a mile south of Newberry Road.

Also approved was Ordinance 2021-70/LDR 21-30, an application to amend the zoning from Alachua County Agriculture (A) to City of Newberry Agricultural (A). This application is contingent upon approval of Application CPA 21-21.

In other City news, Newberry native Alayna Jackson will be joining the Planning Department on Monday, Nov. 8. Jackson has a degree in historic preservation.

In other news, Mayor Jordan Marlowe recommended a play of historical significance at the Hippodrome Theater in Gainesville. “New Berry,” written by Ryan Hope Travis, is based on the moments leading up to the lynchings of six African Americans, allegedly over a hog. Community conversations will be led after each show. The play will run Nov. 5 – 10 with showings at 7:30 p.m. every day except Sunday, which will have a 3 p.m. matinee showing.

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GAINESVILLE ‒ A special meeting of the School Board of Alachua County has been scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 10 at 3 p.m. in the Board meeting room at 620 E. University Avenue. The focus of the meeting is masking in the district’s schools.

There will be an opportunity for public comment at the meeting. The Board will also be able to take a vote at the meeting if a majority of Board members choose to do so.

At its regular meeting on Nov. 2, a majority of School Board members voted to maintain the district’s current masking protocols for students.

Under those protocols, students in high schools may be opted out of wearing masks by their parents.

For students in elementary and middle schools, a waiver form must be signed by a qualifying medical professional.

The protocols would remain in place through Dec. 6. After that day, parents of all students could sign a waiver form for their child.

Since that vote, a challenge of a Florida Department of Health rule requiring that parents have sole discretion over whether their children wear masks in schools was dismissed by an administrative law judge.

A hearing on a lawsuit regarding masks in schools is scheduled for next Wednesday, Nov. 17 in circuit court, and the Florida Legislature will be holding a special session on this and other COVID-related issues beginning Nov. 15.

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High Springs ‒ For over a year, the congregation at St. Bartholomew's Episcopal church in High Springs has been planning an historic celebration to mark the 125th consecutive year the church has been holding services at its current location.

The church's history actually goes farther back, with services held in private homes until a parishioner deeded the current land to build a permanent church in the 1880s.

The fall of 1896 became a turning point in the history of the church as residents of High Springs took shelter as a tornado tore through, damaging homes, churches and families' livelihoods. The “Great Storm” as it became known, caused 202 deaths and was one of the costliest hurricanes on record at the time.

St. Bartholomew's was a vital part of the community and railroad workers and townspeople worked tirelessly to rebuild the damaged church, cutting down pine trees and even using railroad ties to bring the church back to life. St. Bartholomew's church became a landmark and an integral part of the town. Since its reconstruction, parishioners have held services every single Sunday for the past 125 years.

To celebrate those 125 years of services, the congregation planned every detail of the anniversary, including food, a bake sale, musical entertainment, tours of the church with members in period costumes and a Sunday service conducted by Diocese of Florida Bishop John Howard.

The only contingency they couldn't plan for was the weather.

A cold drizzly storm passed through High Springs on the weekend of Nov 6-7, 2021—the same weekend as the planned event, causing some adjustments to the activities.

With temperatures hovering in the high 40s, participation in the event shrank, but church members were determined to mark the 125th year and activities went on as planned. Despite the weather, it is estimated that 250 people attended the celebration.

Refreshments were provided by the High Springs Lions Club and Mister P's BBQ, and both sold out by late afternoon. Despite the cold weather and an outdoor stage, music was provided throughout the event by Band Together, Canopy Road, Hogtown Slayers and headliner Cliff Dorsey. But because of the cold, many people elected to sit in their cars and in the mission hall to eat and enjoy the music.

Kicking off the celebration at 10 a.m., the City of High Springs provided police services and the City’s CRA director David Sutton delivered a speech on the history of the church. City Manager Ashley Stathatos followed with a speech about High Springs today and the changes the town has undergone. The congregation also sponsored a bake sale offering cookies, brownies and other baked goods with donations going to the church.

Church minister Reverend Canon Lance Horne, who is based in Jacksonville, was unable to attend due to illness, and Father Ladd Harris stepped up to offer the invocation. Retired CBS radio personality Ben Hill served as Master of Ceremony for the event. The UF Clinical Research Vehicle was also on site, offering COVID vaccinations as well as wellness checks. On Sunday, the church held a 10 a.m. service led by Bishop Howard, which was attended by about 70 parishioners.

While the inclement weather did not cooperate, the St. Bartholomew's congregation was determined to honor the 125-year history of the church come rain or shine, reminiscent of events years ago, reminding the community that conviction, determination and faith can overcame adversity.

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ALACHUA COUNTY — Early voting for the 2021 City of Gainesville Special Election begins Friday, Nov. 12 and lasts through Sunday, Nov. 14. Locations are open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Early voting locations are as follows:
  • Supervisor of Elections Office (515 N Main Street, Suite 100, Gainesville)
  • Millhopper Branch Library (3145 NW 43rd Street, Gainesville)
The voter registration deadline for this election was October 18.
Voters can view their sample ballot at VoteAlachua.com/My-Registration-Status.
Voters are required to present picture and signature identification before voting. Accepted forms of identification include Florida driver licenses, Florida identification cards, United States passports, debit or credit cards, military or student IDs, retirement center or neighborhood association IDs, public assistance IDs, veteran health IDs, concealed carry IDs, or government employee IDs. Voters may use two forms of identification to meet the requirement.
Previously registered voters are encouraged to verify and update their registration status. This can be done at VoteAlachua.com/My-Registration-Status or by calling 352-374-5252.
The deadline to request a vote-by-mail ballot was Saturday, Nov. 6.
Vote-by-mail ballots must be returned to the Supervisor of Elections Office by 7 p.m. on Election Day. Voters are encouraged to either drop off their ballots to any early voting site during early voting hours, or to the Supervisor of Elections Office located at 515 North Main Street, 3rd Floor. If you have not yet mailed your vote-by-mail ballot, voters are strongly encouraged to take advantage of one of the above options to ensure timely receipt of your ballot.
Mail-in ballot drop boxes will be available at the Alachua Supervisor of Elections Office and at Millhopper Branch Library during early voting Once early voting has ended, the mail-in drop box will only be available at the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections Office during the following days and times:
  • Monday, Nov. 15 from 8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
  • Tuesday, Nov. 16 (Election Day) from 7:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m.
Voters should not return their vote-by-mail ballot to their precinct on Election Day unless they intend to vote in-person.
The mail-in ballot drop box at the Millhopper Branch Library will not be available after early voting has ended on Sunday, Nov. 14 at 6 p.m.
For more information, contact the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections at 352-374-5252. 

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GAINESVILLE ‒ Alachua County Community Support Services Veteran Services Division (and other Alachua County departments), the Malcolm Randall VA Medical Center, and multiple veterans, non-profit, and community organizations are hosting their annual Veterans Day Celebration on Thursday, Nov. 11, 2021, from 9:30 a.m. to noon, at the Veterans Memorial Park located at 7400 S.W. 41st Place, Gainesville.

This year they are honoring Veterans, Law Enforcement, and First Responders. The celebration recognizes and honors all veterans and includes veteran families and loved ones whose support gave them the drive and desire to serve and protect the United States.

The Veterans Day Celebration begins at 9:30 a.m. with military and veteran displays and presentations. The formal program starts at 11 a.m. This celebration includes skydivers, veteran, military and organizational tents, live music, helicopter displays, the UF Drill Team demonstration, and multiple patriotic ceremonies. Food is available.

“Alachua County Veteran Services recognizes the dedication, service, and sacrifices of our Veterans, Law Enforcement and First Responders and the importance of the love and support of their families," said Alachua County Veteran Services Director Kim Davis.

For more information, contact Kim Davis at 352-264-6740

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GAINESVILLE – The City of Gainesville and the Evergreen Cemetery Association of Gainesville, Inc. will honor military veterans and service members, beginning with the placing of American flags at veterans’ graves. Neighbors are invited to participate.
When: 9 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 6
Where: City’s Evergreen Cemetery, 401 SE 21st Ave.
This year, the City’s annual Veterans Day ceremony will include the dedication of a new Veterans Monument with artwork by James Dinh.
When: 11 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 11
Where: City’s Evergreen Cemetery, 401 SE 21st Ave.
The event will feature the presentation of colors by the Milton Lewis Young Marines; and remarks by World War II Historian George E. Cressman, Jr.; Mayor Lauren Poe; and the artist.
The Veterans Monument stands at the foot of a new Veterans Yard that will be reserved for the interment of veterans and spouses, and is a project of the Evergreen Cemetery Association of Gainesville, Inc.; the City of Gainesville Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Department; and Gainesville Art in Public Places Trust. It is funded through private donations.
Evergreen Cemetery is the final resting place of 1,100 area veterans who served in every conflict from the second Seminole War (1835-1842) through recent engagements in Afghanistan and Iraq. Established in 1856, the City acquired the 53-acre cemetery in 1944.
To help ensure public health and safety, neighbors are asked to practice social distancing at the event. For additional information, contact Russell Etling at 352-316-4628 etlingrh@cityofgainesville.org.

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