ALACHUA ‒ With approaching Hurricane Idalia expected in less than 24 hours, the Aug. 28 City of Alachua Commission meeting was shorter than usual and sparsely attended.

The City Commission on second reading approved increasing rates for water, wastewater and reclaimed water to generate revenue sufficient to meet operating expenses. Proposed new rates will meet the expenses for providing utility services to Alachua residents and to compensate for inflation and higher costs. The new rates will also cover water meter installation charges, as well as water and wastewater facility charges.

The Florida Public Service Commission (FPSC) annually publishes a Water and Wastewater Price Index. The latest FPSC approved price index is 7.07 percent for water and wastewater. The City’s proposed rate increases are 7 percent for water rates and 5 percent for wastewater and reclaimed water. The proposed rate also includes a 7 percent increase for water meter installation charges and the associated capital facility charges for water and wastewater. The City’s rates were last modified in 2022.

The Commission also approved establishing a fee to cover administrative costs for lien requests that are fulfilled by the City. City staff routinely receives requests for lien searches on properties located in the City regarding open code enforcement cases and liens against real property, open and expired building permits, and requesting a listing of utilities provided by the City to real property. The fees have been set at $75 for a regular lien search of 7-10 business days and $150 for a rush lien search of 3-5 business days.

In other business, even an approaching hurricane didn’t keep some students of the Bhaktivedanta Academy from being honored with a special presentation from the City Commission. The attending students who had their artwork featured on display in the foyer of City Hall received certificates from Alachua Mayor Gib Coerper and Bhaktivedanta Academy teacher Ms. Danka. The students also had their pictures taken with the City Commission.

In other business, the Commission on first reading approved an amendment to the City of Alachua Land Development Regulations (LDRs). The proposed amendment revises use specific separation requirements for certain businesses that fall under the category of Warehouse and Freight Movement and those uses can only occur in business districts within the City. These include parcel services, truck or freight terminals and warehouse distribution or storage.

The current LDRs require a minimum separation of 250 feet from schools, day care centers, residential uses, or vacant land in residential zone districts. The proposed amendment allows for a reduction in separation distance that could be permitted when an intervening arterial or collector street exists between the proposed warehouse and freight movement use and the school, daycare center, residential use, or vacant land in a residential zoning district.

The revision reduces the minimum separation to 100 feet and to 50 feet when an enhanced landscape buffer is provided, but not closer than 150 feet from the nearest exterior wall of an existing residential dwelling.

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