HIGH SPRINGS ‒ On Nov. 2, High Springs Police Chief Antoine Sheppard issued a press release, which was featured on the High Springs Police Department’s Facebook page. It was a message to High Springs residents about a video circulating on YouTube involving High Springs police officers’ handling of a trespass service call with what he described as a “well-known First Amendment auditor with thousands of followers nationwide.”

Sheppard explained, “These followers, a vocal minority, inundated our office and other City staff with vulgar hate speech and messages, phone calls, and emails. Many of these foreign constituents are unreasonable and extremists who live outside of our state, and they do not support any form of law enforcement.”

In addressing the incident in question, Sheppard went on to state the following, “On Sept. 28, 2023, HSPD patrol officers responded to a local children’s daycare center concerning a disturbance between a citizen and the daycare employees. Reportedly, the citizen kept walking near the daycare where children were present, and a verbal altercation began. The auditor started video recording the incident and was subsequently issued a trespass warning from the property.

Initially, the auditor praised the agency on how the matter was conducted but later found a discrepancy with a statement by HSPD officers that he was recording children at the daycare. The citizen also had displeasure with another officer being captured on body camera after the service call, saying, ‘What a Whacko.’”

In Sheppard’s press release he stated that the matter was corrected and cured immediately. “The property owner was contacted and updated on the accurate sequence of events, and the property owner reaffirmed the trespass. There was no intent to deceive the property owner on the recording of children, just miscommunication during the transaction of the service call. The accused officer is a veteran police officer with an exemplary record with our agency.

“The secondary officer was counseled and reminded to deactivate her body-worn camera system after the service call. The officer’s statement was inadvertently captured on video footage and limited to her opinion and shared with her colleagues in a private setting and not directly to any member of the public. The statement was not egregious or derogatory.”

Sheppard went on to say, “Afterward, I verbally apologized to the citizens on behalf of the agency for the oversight, and I reinterned the continuous training that we have incorporated within our agency to recognize the First Amendment Rights of our citizens.”

Sheppard finalized his press release, “In closing, I am so grateful to live and work in a community that is pro-law enforcement, and what I mean by that is community-based law enforcement that is transparent and held accountable by a balanced approach. We are not perfect, but we strive for perfection, and we will continue to serve selflessly.”

The press release was signed by Chief Antoine Sheppard – High Springs Police Dept.

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NEWBERRY – The Newberry Planning and Zoning Board met on Nov. 6 to consider four issues. All four items received unanimous approval and are being recommended to the City Commission for consideration at the Nov. 27 Regular City Commission meeting.

The Planning and Zoning Board conducted a legislative public hearing to consider an application by I S Property Holdings, LLC to amend 0.28 +/- acres from Residential Low Density to Commercial on a site formally known as the Cold Storage property, located at Northwest 254th Street and Northwest 1st Avenue. Although the property was zoned Residential, it has been used as Commercial property. This request is to formalize the Future Land Use Plan Map to coincide with the property’s actual use.

There was no mention of what the owner intends to do with the property, but the change is being requested at this time because the owner told the City they would like to begin development.

The Board also conducted three quasi-judicial public hearings, including a request to rezone the City Hall and Cold Storage properties from Residential, Single-Family (RSF-2) and Commercial, Central Business District (C-CBD) to Public Facilities (PF) and Commercial, Central Business District (C-CBD) on the 1.93 +/- acre site. The property is located at 25440 West Newberry Road and 98 Northwest 254 Street.

Newberry Principal Planner Jean-Paul Perez said the intent was to align the zoning districts with their existing uses. As the Cold Storage property was to be rezoned, it seemed reasonable to rezone the entire block at the same time. Board members agreed and unanimously authorized approval of the request.

In other business, Tanglewood Planned Development received approval for a preliminary plat for Phase 1, which includes 106 of the 636 detached single-family homes that are part of this subdivision. It will also include an amenity center and a future commercial area, which will eventually come back to the Board for consideration as a separate site plan.

“The preliminary plat includes a condition which has already been incorporated into the resolution,” said Newberry Principal Planner Jean-Paul Perez. “The developer is to work with the City Manager or their designee to mutually agree upon the best route and timing for connection of the 12-inch potable water main line to the water tower site.”

Details such as the intersections and on-street parking will be provided in the construction plan phase, which is the next step. After that a final Plat will be presented to the Board, followed by Site Development, which will include earthwork and infrastructure. Following that, Lot Development would be presented to show the homes, buildings and structures on the property. Following that, Phase 2 would begin.

Upon questioning about an open area behind the Commercial area and the proposed homes by Board member Naim Erched, Walker Owen said that was the area where Duke Energy’s transmission lines run through the property and that it would be developed as walking trails and related amenities.

Erched also requested information about trees on the property and the number of homes that would be built in a year. Developer Gary Weisman said trees in the vegetative buffer would remain, but trees where the homes would be built would be removed. He also said he expected that they would construct 40 – 60 homes in a year, depending on the market.

Concern was also raised about children in the subdivision being sent to different schools. Perez said he would send a request to their contact at the Alachua County School Board requesting that all the children in the 106 homes be sent to the same school.

The Board also gave approval for the Preliminary Plat for Magnolia Acres Subdivision, 79.3 +/- acres located south of Southwest 15th Avenue and east of Southwest 266th Street. The project site is for 15 single-family lots that range from five to seven and a-half-acres in size. Plans call for gated community with a homeowners’ association and a 40-foot vegetative buffer.

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GAINESVILLE, FL – This year, the Hippodrome Theatre is doubling the festive fun with not one but two cherished holiday shows that promise to delight audiences of all ages.

 Back by popular demand, "The Ultimate Christmas Show (abridged)" is a rollercoaster of a holiday ride that will have you rolling in the isles. Join in the festive slapstick fun with our three brave souls as they try to celebrate ALL our cherished holiday traditions - at the same time!

 "The Ultimate Christmas Show (abridged)" will make your spirits bright, whether you joyfully embrace the upcoming season or get dragged into it kicking and screaming.” —Broadway World

 Brought down the house with gales of laughter. – Theatre Mirror

 Prepare to have the time of your life with "The Ultimate Christmas Show (abridged)," on stage from November 24 through December 23, 2023.

 For those seeking a heartwarming and timeless holiday classic, look no further than "A Christmas Carol." This enchanting production captures the essence of the season, combining storytelling, song, and dance to bring Scrooge's redemption to life. Join us in celebrating this cherished annual family and community event that has captivated audiences of all ages.

 This holiday season, from November 25 to December 3, we have a special treat for families. When you generously donate 1-2 hygienic products (such as shampoo, soap, conditioner, razors, shaving cream, feminine care products, etc.) or make a cash donation to support GRACE Marketplace at the Hippodrome, you'll receive a complimentary child/youth ticket with the purchase of one adult ticket for "A Christmas Carol." To take advantage of this offer, please call the box office at (352) 375-4477 to make your purchase.

 "A Christmas Carol" runs from November 25 to December 23, 2023. 

 Don't miss the opportunity to create cherished memories and spread holiday joy this season with the Hippodrome Theatre's double dose of holiday magic. Tickets for both shows are available now and can be purchased through our website at www.thehipp.org or at the Hippodrome Box Office 352 375 4477.

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ALACHUA ‒ Rolling in with the fall weather, the City of Alachua Recreation and Culture Department has a surplus of exciting events this coming weekend.

Come one, come all to the tournaments held Nov. 11 and 12 at Hal Brady and Legacy Multipurpose Center fields.

ACTFOR soccer tournaments start on Nov. 11 with championship games on Nov. 12. Have fun, bring coats and blankets for cold early morning games. Along with soccer, football games are being held at Hal Brady fields on the Nov. 11. Other games going on this week include 399 sports volleyball games also taking place at Hal Brady this week.

And while you’re enjoying the games, check out the concession stand treats. This past weekend’s spectators said concession stand treats were the best they’ve ever had.

Parents won’t want to forget that 399 sports youth basketball sign ups have already started with a deadline of Dec. 7. Along with sports, Dance About is being held at the Hal Brady gym on Monday, Nov. 13, and is open to grades K-8th going from 4 p.m. – 6 p.m. There is a student performance opportunity at the Nutcracker on Nov. 18 at 2 p.m. Get into the holiday spirit with Dance About!

Meanwhile, Legacy Park Multipurpose Center is hosting Just Between Friends Nov. 9 -11. Offering a children’s sale filled with clothes, shoes, toys, and more, the non-ticketed public sale begins Nov. 11.

In between soccer, football, volleyball and dance, enjoy the fall season and Alachua’s charming downtown as the City of Alachua holds a Music Festival on Main Street on Nov. 11 and then the Alachua Business League’s Main Street Fall Festival kicks off on Nov. 12 at 11 a.m.

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Photo special to Alachua County Today / Dorothy and all the characters from the "Wizard of Oz" were popular costumes at Alachua's Trick or Treat on Main Street

ALACHUA ‒ It was an evening of super heroes, pirates and princesses along Main Street, Alachua on Saturday night, Oct. 28.

But the stars of the evening were the characters out of the 1939 movie, “The Wizard of Oz,” which was also the theme for the annual Scarecrow Row displays. Between the trick-or-treat event and Scarecrow Row, lions, tin men, scarecrows, Dorothy and Toto took top billing with a supporting cast of good and bad witches and even flying monkeys.

Sponsored by the Alachua Chamber of Commerce, Trick-or-Treat on Main Street is a longtime annual event sponsored by the Alachua Chamber of Commerce and City of Alachua offering children a safe environment to enjoy Halloween festivities.

It is one of a series of events taking place in downtown Alachua during the fall season, along with the Alachua Main Street Fall Festival sponsored by the Alachua Business League and the Alachua Christmas Parade sponsored by the City of Alachua and the Alachua Chamber of Commerce.

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ALACHUA COUNTY ‒ For its upcoming anniversary, Camp Crystal Lake is inviting families to participate in some of the same activities that Alachua County Public School students and other young people have enjoyed for decades.

On both Saturday, Nov. 18 and Saturday, Dec. 9 from 12:30 to 5:30 p.m., families can celebrate the Camp’s 75th anniversary with fishing, archery, hayrides, arts and crafts and other activities. They’ll also have an opportunity to try out the Camp’s ropes course. Visitors are invited to bring copies of pictures or any camp memorabilia for a ‘Decades Meet-Up’ in the Rec Hall. A closing ceremony will be held at 5 p.m.

The event is free for everyone, and light snacks and drinks will be also available at no charge. Visitors can purchase 75th Anniversary t-shirts at the celebration, with proceeds funding scholarships for the summer program. Donations for the fund will also be accepted.

To help the Camp staff prepare for the event, anyone interested in attending is asked to register at:


Since 1948, the Camp has served generations of Alachua County Public School students through its outdoor educational programs and its more traditional summer camp. It’s owned and operated by Alachua County Public Schools and is located on 140 wooded acres in Starke.

During the school year, 2nd- and 5th -grade students visit the camp for lessons on science, the environment and team building. During the summer, Camp Crystal provides a traditional camp experience for 2nd- through 9th-graders.

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HIGH SPRINGS ‒ The City of High Springs has, for the second time in a month, denied a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) for a tobacco and vape shop. The City Commission first denied a permit on Sept. 25, 2023. The City Commission denied a different request by a separate business on Oct. 26. This shop location would have been located at Gator Plaza, 18467 N.W. U.S. Highway 441.

The High Springs Planning and Zoning Board first considered this application and recommended against approval to the High Springs City Commission. Another Gator Plaza business owner, Natalia Castalia, pointed out that the location would be within 20 feet of a daycare center.

The property’s landlord, Dave Chadri, argued that the shop would be on the other side of the Plaza from the daycare center and every gas station and convenience store in High Springs has tobacco and vape products for sale.

The argument failed to sway the Commission, and the denial was by a unanimous vote.

School Resource Officer Agreement

The Commission unanimously approved an agreement between the City and Alachua County School Board to provide two school resource officers (SROs) to the High Springs Community School. The agreement calls for the School Board to pay up to $132,005 as its share of funding for the SROs for the 2023-24 school year.

The School Board’s funding will go toward the cost for salaries, benefits and operating expenses for the SRO.

Mutual Aid Agreement

The Commission also unanimously approved a mutual aid agreement between the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO) and the City of High Springs. The agreement permits voluntary cooperation and assistance across jurisdictional lines and provides law enforcement assistance in an emergency between the two agencies.

A mutual aid agreement was in force with previous ACSO Sheriff Clovis Watson, Jr. A new agreement was required since Emery Gainey is now in that position.

Local Business Impact Estimates

The Commission unanimously approved a local business impact estimate ordinance upon second reading. The ordinance is in compliance with Florida Statutes. The ordinance requires municipalities to prepare business impact estimates prior to adopting ordinances that impact business owners.

The law also provides a procedure to challenge ordinances that are adopted by local government, while also setting challenge and waiting periods.

Vacating Undeveloped Right-of-Way

The Commission unanimously approved an ordinance on second reading that allows for the vacation and abandonment of an undeveloped public right-of-way.

The ordinance was created subsequent to an application by Judy Swoyer made vacate the southern half of Whitlock Street and internal alleys within Columbia Heights subdivision. The two applicant-owned parcels are located just north of Tractor Supply and south of 210th Lane, also called Boat Ramp Road.

Surplus Police Vehicles

High Springs Police Department (HSPD) Chief Antoine Sheppard received authorization to surplus four department vehicles including a 2004 BMW police motorcycle and three Crown Victoria cars from 2008, 2006 and 2010.

As these vehicles were all purchased through the General Fund, and income from the sale of these vehicles will be returned to that fund.

Sheppard said that a grant funded 100 percent of the cost of a replacement motorcycle with all equipment included, so there would be no cost to the City. Also, he reported that a grant had been obtained for $20,000 for vests, which are required to be replaced every five years.

Final Comments

City Manager Ashley Stathatos announced that a Hometown Hero Salute, presented by High Springs Mercantile and the GFWC High Springs Woman’s Club, will be held at 3 p.m. at the High Springs Brewery on Saturday, Oct. 28. Just under $1,000 was earned from this event. Proceeds will go toward the High Springs Fire Department for turnout gear and the High Springs Police Department for the purchase of another canine officer.

Stathatos also offered kudos to Kim Arnold who recently became fully certified in urban search and rescue, which requires 200 hours of training.

Mayor Gloria James informed the Commission that two Habitat for Humanity homes held ribbon cutting ceremonies in the past week. She said she was proud that the City provided the properties on which the homes were built.

The next City Commission meeting is scheduled for Nov. 16. Because of the Thanksgiving holiday, the second meeting in November will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 28.

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