NEWBERRY ‒ The Newberry City Commission has given the go ahead to a property zoning change that will allow 124 acres to be used as a limestone quarry. The City Commission at its Sept. 26 meeting approved an application for a large-scale amendment to the Future Land Use Map by eda consultants, inc., agent for Cates & Broome, LLC and Cates and Broome Partnership, owner. The action changes 123.9 +/- acres from (County) Rural/Agriculture to (City) Mining. The Commission also approved on first reading the application to rezone the same property from (County) Agriculture to (City) Agricultural (A).

The property is an abandoned mining site, which was annexed into Newberry on June 8, 2020, and is located on the east side of Northwest County Road 236, between Northwest 22nd Avenue and Northwest 46th Avenue. The site will be the future limestone quarry for Limestone Products, LLC once the southern site has been exhausted of resources. Representing the owner, eda consultants say the quarry will not increase demand on public infrastructure.

The property is the site of a small cemetery and a protected gopher tortoise population. The developer will fence off the cemetery and will be required to relocate the gopher tortoises to a suitable location. Newberry Mayor Jordan Marlowe said there are three visible gravestones on the property. City of Newberry planner Jean-Paul Perez recommended that a historical resource survey would be the best way to determine the number of graves in that area and to possibly identify who was buried on the site.

A special use permit must be approved by the Newberry City Commission prior to the commencement of any mining operation. “The special use permit request has been submitted and will be brought before the Planning and Zoning Board and the City Commission once the future land use and zoning have been established,” said Perez.

The Commission approved the large-scale amendment change on first reading and also approved transmitting the document to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) for review, as is required by the State of Florida with all large-scale amendments of 50 acres or more. A second and final hearing by the Newberry City Commission will be scheduled at a future commission meeting.

In other City business, the Commission set the final Fiscal Year 2022-23 budget at $33,946,148 and adopted the final millage rate of 5.9244, which is the same as the roll-back rate. The roll-back rate calculates taxable property values in relation to the total revenue they generate. If the tax rate generates the same total revenue one year as it did in the previous year, then the rolled-back rate has been applied

In other budget-related actions, the Commission approved rate increases on second and final reading for electric, water, wastewater and development fees. Residential electric rates were increased by approximately 1.5 percent on the customer charge, for an average residential impact of $1.55 per month. Non-residential rates are proposed to be adjusted in a similar fashion. The rate increase will take effect Jan. 1, 2023.

Changes to the wastewater rates represent a 2.5 percent increase in the consumption charge while changes to the water rates represent a 4.5 percent increase in the consumption charge.

Also approved on second reading were increases in development fees for water and wastewater. The proposed rate increase is 12.5 percent bringing the water fee to $866.50 and the wastewater fee to $4,158.

Development fees are collected to offset the impact development has on the utility infrastructure. These fees are charged against new construction at the time of permit issuance to offset the cost of new infrastructure needs of the utility. The City Commission last increased fees in 2007.

Commissioners approved on second and final reading the Municipal Services Benefit Unit (MSBU) fee in a 4-1 vote with Commissioner Tim Marden in dissent. Alachua County levies a $20.47 one- time annual fee per household for providing solid waste services to the City. The MSBU rate for residential customers in FY 2022-23 is the same rate as levied in the previous two years.

The Commission, anticipating impacts by Hurricane Ian, declared a state of emergency due to the likelihood that the area would receive high winds and significant rainfall.

City Manager Mike New said the resolution authorizes the City to waive certain requirements in an emergency situation such as the competitive bid process prior to hiring a company to assist in repairs. In the meantime, Newberry city employees have been patrolling the area to eliminate potential hazards due to high winds and are asking residents to remove potential flying debris from their yards. New said Easton would be set up as a pet friendly shelter, sand will be available at the Public Works Building and city staff will be going home early on Tuesday afternoon to address their own hurricane preparedness measures. He also announced that the City would be closed on Thursday. Assistant City Manager Dallas Lee suggested residents check at the City’s website to view changes, updates and any other hurricane-related information.

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