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Over-regulation in Alachua County

LTE2012 This may come as a shock, but Alachua County is over-regulated. From commercial properties to personal residences, private property rights are under relentless attack from the Alachua County Commission (BOCC). Two recent actions by the BOCC show just how far they are willing to go.

The county is currently reviewing the Land Development Codes and when this is occurring no property owner is safe from its overreach. These codes control every aspect of your property, from the trees in your yard to the kind of advertising a business is allowed. Chances are that if you want to do something there is a regulation controlling it.

Of the many code review meetings I’ve attended, one in particular illustrates how detailed the regulations are.  The BOCC discussed for three hours whether a farmer could sell his produce on site. The first hour concluded the farmer could get permission to sell produce on his own property. Hour two was a debate on the allowed size of the structure where the produce would be sold. They started at 10 feet with Commissioner Byerly finally accepting 12 feet.  Commissioner Pinkoson was able to push the size of the structure to 20 feet.  They then proceeded into hour three with a discussion to determine if the farmer could sell bottled water from a cooler.

I am happy to report that if you are shopping for locally grown produce and you get too hot in the 20 foot structure you can now purchase a bottle of water from a cooler. Just don’t look for a sign directing you to the farm selling the produce because a sign for the business is illegal.

Back in the 70s my late father, “Big Sid” Martin, got the state legislature to pass a proclamation naming the town of Windsor “The Zucchini Capital.” Never in his wildest dreams would he have imagined the BOCC would outlaw a sign advertising the Zucchini Festival which supports the Volunteer Fire Department of Windsor, but that is exactly what has happened. For years the Festival has placed signs announcing the pending event, one on State Rd 26 and the other on Hwy 20. The County rightfully told them they could not be in the right of way so the organizers got permission from private land owners and placed them on private property. These are temporary signs that would only be up for a couple of weeks leading to the festival.

But, according to the Land Development Codes this is illegal. The signs had to come down because it is “The Law and common sense will not rule the day in Alachua County. To the BOCC’s credit, after pleas from concerned citizens the county placed electronic Department of Transportation (DOT) road signs directing people on the day of the event. Would it not have been simpler and far cheaper to realize the rules are unacceptable and do something about it? Let me emphasize that the county exercised its power over private property!

Clearly in a modern society we have to have some level of regulation, but when a farmer has to jump through so many hoops just to sell produce, and a charitable event with which a vast majority of people have no issue is not allowed to advertise, then regulation is no longer protecting people but ruling them.  This is regulation gone too far.  Major changes are needed in Alachua County’s Land Development Codes to reduce the extent to which lands can be regulated.

John Martin

Candidate

Alachua County Commission, District 1

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Transportation surtax ballot initiative

LTE2012 Dear Chair DeLaney, Vice Chair Byerly, and Commissioners Pinkoson, Baird, and Bradley:

Disclaimer… I am not contacting you in any official capacity in representing the Alachua City Commission. Consequently, my comments should “not” be construed in any way that I am voicing the views of the Alachua City Commission. The opinions expressed in this letter are mine as a concerned citizen who just happens to be an elected City of Alachua official.

I have been closely following the subject “Transportation Surtax Ballot Initiative” discussions on television including the county commission meeting conducted on May 22, 2012. Like the majority of Alachua County citizens, I agreed with a great number of comments expressed by members of the county commission and those of many of the residents who spoke at this latest meeting about this critical issue facing all of us who call Alachua County home. Conversely, I also disagreed with a number of comments made during the meeting.

Based on what has transpired during the “Transportation Surtax” issue over the past several months, while not having any desire to disparage any elected county and/or city officials, I am proposing recommendations in this letter solely in the spirit of fulfilling “transportation and transit needs” in our beautiful county. Although I am generally against increasing taxes and especially during these tough economic times, our roads need to be repaired “now” and I believe the action taken at the May 22, 2012, county commission meeting will delay critical road repairs being affected anytime soon.

It is important to note that my recommendations are “not” being offered in order to construct a ballot initiative that will simply have a chance of passing, but rather from a standpoint of focusing on and identifying the aforementioned “needs” of the county and its municipalities. I unashamedly admit that “Home Rule” is a major concern of mine in offering the following recommendations which I believe have a chance of reaching consensus among county and municipal governments, which will in turn provide Alachua County voters with a clear picture of the value in passing a transportation surtax to enhance and sustain the future growth of our county.

My recommendations are to propose a one-cent surtax for a period of 10 years for voters to consider at the ballot box to be used for transportation- and/or transit-related initiatives as determined by the county and each municipality based on a “Home Rule” philosophy. The county and each municipality could then decide what transportation and/or transit initiatives are needed in the areas of their individual purviews and then allocate their portion of the one-cent surtax to fulfill these initiatives.

Transportation-related initiatives should include sidewalks to be repaired/installed on new and/or resurfaced roads as “connectivity” and “best practices” initiatives. Transit-related activities should not be reserved strictly for the City of Gainesville but to the county and municipalities as they deem appropriate in fulfilling their individual transit needs.

The distribution formula will be need to be revised in order to be as equitable as possible to the county and municipalities in passing a one cent surtax. In doing so, population, road miles, and percent of the roads the county will be repairing in any municipality, should be considered.

Thank you for your service to Alachua County. You have tackled a tough issue and we all know a discussion about “taxes” is never a popular topic. I truly appreciate your commitment in addressing the need to improve our roads in order to ensure Alachua County’s standing as a community of vision for the future is realized.

Robert W. Wilford

Alachua Vice Mayor

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Golf cart purchase raises questions

LTE2012
Recently two letters regarding the City of High Springs’ purchase of a golf cart have been published.  The golf cart is an example of just how dysfunctional the City of High Springs has become.  I hope that city leaders step up and answer some simple questions:

1) Why was a golf cart purchased when the contract it was to support is not going forward?  Since the revenue to justify the purchase will not be coming into the city, where in the budget is the money coming from?

2) If a work vehicle is needed in the City of High Springs why is the Polaris 4-wheeler the city owns not being used?  Is the Polaris not working?  Did our city manager and commissioners even know the city owned a Polaris work vehicle?

3) Why was Commissioner Barnas involved in the purchase of the golf cart?  He has admitted, on the record, that he instructed the city manager to purchase the cart.  A public records request shows that Commissioner Barnas picked up the check used to pay for the cart and, it is assumed, delivered the check.

4) Who was the cart purchased from?  A public records request indicates that the cart was purchased from an individual by the name of John Fradd who lives in Turkey Creek.  Would Commissioner Barnas like to confirm or deny that he had, as a realtor, a business relationship with Mr. Fradd?

The process of purchasing equipment for the city should be left to city employees and department heads.  We should not be buying anything without a demonstrated need.  Of all the tools city employees might make use of, I doubt any department head would put a $1,700 golf cart at the top of the list.

Ross Ambrose

High Springs, Fla.

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May 24, 2012 High Springs CRA meeting

LTE2012I wanted to share my viewpoint regarding the bike racks that have been installed around High Springs.  Since this community is close to several rivers and springs and is the crossroads to all parts of North Central Florida, we are lucky to have a lot of bicyclists pass through our town.  High Springs is even on the National Bicycle Trail.  The bike racks were installed to encourage this traffic and provide a unique and artistic addition to our town, which would be visible 24 hours a day.

The leaders of High Springs need to encourage every avenue of economic development possible, and this crowd is definitely one that we should encourage.  Avid bicyclists like to travel and usually have money to spend, and would be likely to return with their families.  High Springs is home to an excellent bicycle shop and a well-developed bicycle club, the Yellow-Bellied Sliders.

I would like you to not only leave the current bike racks in place but install the “turtle” rack in the refurbished James Paul Park area.  They are a positive attribute to the City of High Springs.

Marilyn Vanover

High Springs

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Archer has long sought sewer funding assistance

LTE2012
This letter is in reference to the letter to the editor dated April 26, 2012, "Infrastructure Improvements for Small Cities."

As a former commissioner, vice mayor and mayor of Archer, infrastructure has been the topic of discussion in Archer ever since I moved back here in 2000. Since we are a municipality we have to take some responsibility for improving our own infrastructure needs.

I agree that Alachua County should help where possible. Just last October I went before the Alachua County Commission along with the mayor, the city manager and the engineer asking for funding for a study. We had documents showing what had been completed to get the sewer started, and the progress made, such as securing funding from the State Revolving Fund. Two commissioners lead the charge not to support our request for the study, two wanted to give us the funding right then, and one wanted more information, which we agreed to do but the City of Archer chose not to go back.

The City of Archer has had feasibility studies after feasibility studies and spent money doing so. It takes three votes from the commission, and they did not go through with the process of getting the sewer after the studies were done.

During my tenure, we have discussed, had many workshops and meetings with the county and other agencies expressing our needs. I personally have written so many articles "Why sewer is needed in Archer." The City of Archer has always looked for resources from county and everywhere else, and we have always compiled information about areas in which assistance is needed.  We did not always get them, but we asked.

I am saying all of this to say that I don't want it to seem like we, (the City of Archer) have not engaged in dialog with the county concerning the needs in Archer. Many of you know my history and the City of Archer's history, so don't be lead to believe that this is something new getting started by the author of the article in the April 26 Alachua County Today.

Roberta Lopez

Candidate for Alachua County Commission in District 1

 

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