NEWBERRY ‒ The Newberry City Commission has reconsidered its March 13 decision regarding impact fees. Following input from area developers, the City modified the April 10 meeting agenda from second reading of an ordinance to establish impact fees to a discussion item instead.

The proposed impact fees were based on a study commissioned by Benesch, a Tampa based firm. At the March 13 meeting, the Commission reviewed impact fee recommendations based on projected growth along with fees charged by other cities and Alachua County in two categories—Public Buildings (i.e., fire stations, public works departments, city halls) and Multi-Modal Transportation (i.e., design and construction of road improvements).

At that time, the Commission approved increasing fees on new construction the first year based on 80 percent of Benesch’s recommended amounts with an increase of 10 percent more per year for the following two years. Based on those figures, Newberry would gradually achieve fees commensurate with Benesch’s suggested fee schedule. The fees would not be applied to any development that had already received construction plan approval by the City. The purpose of impact fees is to pay for future growth as a one-time fee collected for new construction.

At the April 10 meeting, Commissioners who were not in attendance at the earlier meeting as well as developers, argued that the proposed fees would add substantial increased cost to commercial construction, something the City has been attempting to cultivate, that commercial development may be slowed by implementing the fees.

At the April 10 meeting, the Commission dictated several changes to the proposed ordinance. Commercial construction would be assessed nothing the first year. The fees will be increased by 5 percent of the study’s recommended amount every year for the next four years. Residential construction would be assessed 70 percent of the recommended amount the first year and 10 percent for each of the subsequent three years. The Commission is expected to take up the matter again at their next meeting scheduled for April 24.

In other City business, Commissioners adopted a resolution approving a Water Facilities Plan, which will now be sent to the state for review and acceptance as part of the State Revolving Fund (SRF) Loan program. If approved, the SRF Loan program will enable the project to move toward the design phase.

The Water System Facilities Plan evaluated alternatives for providing additional water storage capacity and determined that construction of a 500,000-gallon pedosphere-type water storage tank is the most cost effective approach. The cost is $5.75 million. Currently, the City has a 150,000-gallon and 300,000-gallon tank. The new tank is planned to be located on State Road 26, approximately 2.5 miles east of downtown, as part of the Tanglewood Development.

Commissioners unanimously adopted a resolution approving an application for submission of a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) in the Neighborhood Revitalization Category. The application was submitted to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) on July 28, 2022. If awarded, the CDBG grant will provide $700,000 in administration and construction funding for the City's infrastructure needs.

The City is proposing to pave 2,260 linear feet of existing streets, which include Northwest 4th Avenue from Northwest 255th Street to Northwest 257th Street (400 feet), Northwest 5th Avenue from Northwest 255th Street to Northwest 257th Street (410 feet) and Northwest 255th Street from Northwest 2nd Avenue to Northwest 6th Avenue (1,450 feet). The City also proposes to construct an estimated 2,260 linear feet of new sidewalks adjacent to the streets being paved and will provide 25 percent local match funding towards the project.

Plans are moving forward for a property to be developed as a commercial center toward the front of the site and to provide additional boat and RV storage to the south, with possibly mini storage between. The Commission approved on first reading, a request to amend the Official Zoning Atlas of the City’s Land Development Regulations on approximately 8.28 +/- acres from Commercial General (CG) to Commercial Intensive (CI) on property located on the south side of West Newberry Road/State Road 26 between Southwest 218th Street and Southwest 226th Street. The application was presented by eda Consultants, Inc., agent for Tibbetts Land Holdings, LLC, owners.

In other City business, the Commission approved on first reading assigning the mayor to serve as the Chair of the Board of Adjustment. The commission also approved on first reading changes to the terms of office for the Planning and Zoning and Historic Architectural Review Boards to mirror the same schedule as the City Commission (two-year terms) and also to designate the mayor as the Chair of both boards.

Mayor Jordan Marlowe, Commissioner Group IV Tim Marden and Commissioner Group V Tony Mazon will be sworn into their next terms on April 24. All candidates for the April 11, 2023, election ran unopposed.

City Manager Mike New announced that plans are underway for a joint meeting with the Alachua County Board of County Commissioners and Newberry City Commissioners in June at Newberry City Hall.

The next City Commission meeting is scheduled for April 24 at 7 p.m.

#     #     #

Email cwalker@

Add a comment

GAINESVILLE ‒ Daniel Deon McNair, 25, was arrested on Monday, April 3, after allegedly selling a stolen golf bag and golf clubs to Play it Again Sports. McNair is also facing other sworn complaints for burglary and theft and is currently on probation for armed burglary and other charges.

On Feb. 27, McNair allegedly brought the golf clubs, valued at $1,000, to Play It Again Sports and sold them for $60. The store manager later positively identified him in a photo line-up, and the store video reportedly clearly showed McNair in the process of selling the equipment to Play It Again Sports.

A sworn complaint alleges that McNair stole about $8,800 in equipment, including a remote-control car and a large amount of associated equipment and parts, from a parked car on Jan. 24, 2022. The victim reportedly found the equipment for sale online and a Gainesville Police Department officer watched nearby while she bought it back from McNair for $300.

Another sworn complaint alleges that McNair took a wallet from a parked car on Feb. 12, and then attempted to make a purchase with cards from the wallet. That complaint also mentions allegations of fleeing and eluding in a stolen vehicle on Jan. 15 and another burglary on Feb. 6.

McNair has five felony convictions and has served one three-year prison sentence for Alachua County charges that include armed burglary and theft. He was released in April 2022 and is currently on probation in that case.

Bail was set at $35,000 on the charges related to the golf clubs and Judge Susan Miller-Jones ordered him held without bond for violation of probation.

#     #     #

Email cwalker@

Add a comment

NEWBERRY ‒ A zipline park in Newberry is one step closer as the Newberry Planning and Zoning Board convened a quasi-judicial public hearing on April 3 to consider a request for Site and Development Plan approval for Zipline at Haile Quarry. The property consists of 70 +/- acres and is located at 3925 N.W. County Road 235. The request included construction or installation of an approximately 1,000-square-foot building, three towers and walking trails throughout the site.

City of Newberry Principal Planner Jean-Paul Perez presented this item to the Board and mentioned that the site is subject to the approval and conditions of a special exception granted at an earlier meeting through Resolution 2022-11/SE 22-04. Perez recommended the Board recommend approval to the Board of Adjustment with the same conditions included in the special exception.

In other business, two items relating to a project known as Newberry Plaza were addressed by the Board. Although both items received approval to recommend them to the City Commission for first reading, a lengthy discussion about two issues took up a considerable amount of the Board’s time prior to the unanimous vote to approve.

The first item was a large-scale Future Land Use Map Amendment to change the map from Agriculture to Planned Development on 128 +/- acres. The property is located at the southeast corner of State Road 26/West Newberry Road and Southwest 242nd Street. The project proposes 350 dwelling units and 150,000 square feet of commercial use at build out. If the amendment is approved and the project goes forward, the developer plans to build about 50 homes a year beginning in 2025.

Concern by the Board that the developer may choose to build single-family dwelling units prior to developing the commercial property led to the recommendation to approve including a stipulation. The caveat added to the approval is that the developer provide 100 percent of the infrastructure for commercial development by the time 50 percent, or 151 homes, are built.

In the past, said Board members, developers build out the residential and then say they are unable to attract commercial businesses. They then come before the Board asking to develop residential in place of the planned commercial. The City seeks to attract commercial businesses as plans for residential property development is outpacing commercial.

The second item of concern is a historic home located on the property. The home would need at least $300,000 to bring it up to code to use as a large gathering place. Following a lengthy discussion, the applicant will go back to the developer and see if there might be a way to carve that property out of the development or to suggest a way in which the structure could be saved and used.

The large-scale amendment will be heard on first reading by the City Commission at the April 24 meeting. If approved at that time, the ordinance will be transmitted to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity for their review and comments. The Board also unanimously recommended approval for Ordinance 2023-16/LDR 23-07, to change the zoning designation from Agricultural (A) to Planned Development (PD) for Newberry Plaza.

The final item on the agenda was a quasi-judicial public hearing on Resolution 2023-28, an application by the Florida Department of Agricultural & Consumer Services, Division of Animal Industry, agent for Alachua County Public Works, owner, for site and development plan approval to allow construction of a 3,000-square-foot 50x60 foot pre-engineered pole barn on a portion of the Alachua County Agriculture and Equestrian Center, 22712 W. Newberry Road. The barn will have no utilities and will be used to house agricultural and Search and Rescue Transponder (SART) emergency response equipment.

Planning and Economic Development Director Bryan Thomas said this is the exact same pole barn the Board and City Commission approved about a year ago. They have since outgrown it, he said. The Board voted unanimously to recommend the Board of Adjustment approve the request at their April 24 meeting.

#     #     #

Email cwalker@

Add a comment

HAWTHORNE ‒ At 3:19 p.m. on March 30, units from Windsor and Melrose Fire Departments and Alachua County Fire Rescue were dispatched to a residential building fire on Southeast 218th Street in Hawthorne.

Crews from Station 62 in Hawthorne arrived less than six minutes after being dispatched and found smoke and flames coming from the laundry room. They made an immediate attack and had the fire out within a couple of minutes. Thanks to a closed door between the laundry room and the rest of the house the fire did not spread to any other rooms in the residence. Crews were able to extinguish it before it spread up into the attic.

All of the occupants and pets escaped without harm. The cause of the fire is under investigation. ACFR cautions everyone to make sure they have working smoke detectors and to keep interior doors closed when not in use.

#     #     #

Email cwalker@

Add a comment

HAWTHORNE ‒ Humberto Toledo-Russias, 34, was arrested on Wednesday, March 29, following an investigation into multiple vehicle thefts from local hotels. A search of the property where he lived reportedly produced a large number of vehicles in various states of disassembly, vehicle parts and vehicle documents/titles.

On April 19, 2022, a man parked his orange 2018 Jeep Wrangler, valued at about $39,000, in the parking lot of the Residence Inn by Marriott at 3275 S.W. 40th Boulevard in Gainesville and reported that it was gone the next morning. The Wrangler was picked up by a license plate reader shortly after the theft and it was reportedly followed by another Jeep Wrangler with a dealer tag registered to Toledo Motorsports, Inc., a company registered in Miami by Elvira Leon and Gisel Soto and operated by Toledo-Russias, his grandmother and his girlfriend, Soto. The second Wrangler with the dealer tag was found stripped and abandoned in Hawthorne on Sept. 4, 2022.

On Sept. 2, 2022, a man parked his black 2020 Ford F-150 Raptor, valued at about $75,000, at Homewood Suites at 3333 S.W. 42nd Street, Gainesville, and reported that it was gone the next morning. The pickup also contained a Traeger Ranger pellet grill.

On March 11, 2023, a woman parked her black 2020 Jeep Wrangler, valued at about $40,000, at the Red Roof Plus hotel at 3500 S.W. 42nd Street, Gainesville, and reported that it was gone the next morning. Surveillance video reportedly showed a white Ford “Platinum” edition pickup truck parking directly next to the Wrangler. About four minutes later, both vehicles left together.

On March 29, 2023, a Gainesville Police Department (GPD) Detective drove to Toledo-Russias’ address in Hawthorne, and he was able to see a “large number of new model Jeep and Dodge vehicles” from the roadway. The detective reportedly saw Toledo-Russias drive a forklift off the property and load a vehicle motor onto a semi truck. The detective obtained a search warrant for the property on the evening of March 29, and it was executed by both GPD and Alachua County Sheriff’s Office (ASO) personnel just after midnight on March 30.

The ASO SWAT team tactically secured the property and detained Toledo-Russias and Soto. The Vehicle Identification Numbers (VIN) on the vehicles and parts found on the property matched several vehicles that had been reported stolen, including a white 2021 Jeep Gladiator “392” stolen out of Alachua County, a gray 2019 Dodge Challenger Hellcat stolen out of Broward County and a black 2020 Jeep Gladiator stolen out of Seminole County.

A number of orange Jeep Wrangler parts were found, and a windshield still had a parking sticker from a complex in St. Augustine that the owner of the Wrangler, which was stolen in April 2022, identified as his, providing a photo of the vehicle with the same sticker.

The stripped-down chassis of the F-150 Raptor stolen in September 2022 was found on the property, in addition to multiple Raptor parts. The Traeger Ranger pellet grill was also reportedly found on the back porch of the residence.

The 2020 Jeep Wrangler that was stolen earlier in March was not found at the property, but multiple parts belonging to a black Jeep Wrangler were found. One part was a center console that still contained various personal effects, including a small pearl earring, which the owner of the Jeep identified as hers. A Wrangler door was also found in the garage and a small umbrella was still in the door pocket. The owner of the Jeep identified it as her umbrella.

The owner of a white Ford F-250 “Platinum” edition that was found at the property could not be determined because the VIN had been tampered with.

Post Miranda, Soto was reportedly asked about blank Jeep key fobs that were mailed to her name, but she said she didn’t know anything about the activities on the property, although she had lived there for about a year and had been dating Toledo-Russias for about seven years. She reportedly did not provide any pertinent information and was not arrested because she is 36 weeks pregnant and has a 7-year-old son.

Post Miranda, Toledo-Russias declined to speak with detectives and requested an attorney.

Toledo-Russias has been charged with six counts of grand theft over $20,000, operating a “chop shop” and dealing in stolen property. He has seven felony convictions, of which two were violent.

“Due to Mr. Humberto Toledo-Russias’ ability to flee to South Florida and possessing the financial means to leave the region, I am requesting an increased bond amount during the time of this active investigation,” said the investigating officer in his report. Judge Thomas Jaworski set bail at $1.35 million.

#     #     #

Email cwalker@

Add a comment

ALACHUA ‒ Two separate traffic incidents occurred on Friday, April 7, and resulted in the death of two drivers. In one crash a 38-year-old Alachua man was killed at the southbound exit ramp of Interstate 75 and U.S. Highway 441 on at 8:20 a.m. His vehicle was traveling east in the outside lane on U.S. Hwy 441, approaching the red traffic signal at the intersection of I-75, southbound exit ramp.

A tractor trailer driven by a 37-year-old Crawfordville, Florida, man was stopped for the red traffic signal at the same intersection in the outside lane, facing east and directly ahead of the van.

According to the Florida Highway report, the Alachua driver failed to stop for the traffic ahead causing the front of his van to collide with the rear of the tractor trailer.

The Alachua man was pronounced deceased on the scene by EMS personnel. He was not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the crash. The driver of the tractor trailer reported no injuries and no passengers were reported in either vehicle.

In a separate incident at 5:43 a.m. on the same date, a 57-year-old Starke man was killed when the motorcycle he was riding hit a deer on State Road 235 near Northwest 40th Terrace. The motorcyclist was traveling west bound when he struck the deer and was subsequently ejected onto the roadway.

A 23-year-old male from Hampton was traveling east in a pickup truck and hit the motorcyclist. He reported no injuries and had no passengers in his vehicle at the time of the incident.

The Starke man was pronounced deceased on the scene.

#     #     #

Email cwalker@

Add a comment

HIGH SPRINGS ‒ The 6th Annual Santa Fe Plein Air Paintout begins Wednesday, April 12 with public viewing for three days in three parks. For the past six years, local and out-of-town plein air artists have flocked to High Springs to capture beautiful parks and springs through their plein art. This year, 18 artists will be painting in outdoor daylight at various park locations. This year’s poster painting is “Blue Springs” by Alachua artist Dana Queen.

Public observation days are Wednesday, April 12, Thursday, April 13, and Friday, April 14. For the best viewing experience, go early to capture most of the artists at work in the parks. Maps will be available at Lanza Gallery & Art Supplies during normal gallery hours all week 

April 12’s plein air observation is 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. at Rum Island Springs County Park, 1447 S.W. Rum Island Terrace, Fort White, Fla. There is a $5 park entrance fee.

April 13’s plein air observation is 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. at Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park, 7450 N.W. 60th Street, High Springs, Fla. There is a park entry fee of $4 per person or $6 per car.

April 14’s plein air observation is 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. at O'Leno State Park, 410 S.E. O'Leno Park Road, High Springs, Fla. L. There is a park entry fee of $4 per person or $6 per car.

Celebrate the work of all the plein air artists at an art reception at Lanza Gallery & Art Supplies on Saturday, April 15, from 5 p.m. – 8 p.m. Light refreshments will be served, and all works are for sale with a percentage of all paintout sales going to the Howard T. Odum, Florida Springs Institute for the preservation of springs and rivers. The exhibit will be on display for sale at Lanza Gallery & Art Supplies, Saturday, April 15 through May 20, 2023.

For customers needing more information, call Lanza Gallery & Art Supplies at 352-474-1049.

#     #     #

Email editor@

Add a comment

More Articles ...