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ALACHUA ‒ The Alachua City Commission has finalized a contract with Mike DaRoza, currently the City’s Interim City Manager, to become the next city manager for Alachua. At the July 25 City Commission meeting, DaRoza was issued a three-year contract.

In other business, the Commission recognized students of the Bhaktvedanta Academy who had their artwork featured on display in the foyer of City Hall as part of the Art in City Hall program. Alachua Mayor Gib Coerper and lead teacher Susan Reed presented Artist Appreciation certificates to the student artists.

The Commission also presented a Certificate of Appreciation to Dr. Marc Cauchon, owner of Alachua Dental Center, for his 24 years of service to the community of Alachua as a businessman and for his dedication to the Chamber of Commerce.

In other business, Clay Sweger of EDA Consultants, Inc. presented a request for a Small-Scale Comprehensive Plan Amendment (SSCPA) on the Future Land Use Map (FLUM) and to rezone the Official Zoning Atlas on High Point Crossing, a proposed development.

The 27.88-acre property is located north of the U.S. Highway 441 and Interstate-75 interchange, and north of Northwest 161st Terrace. The property is undeveloped and is comprised of a mixture of cleared lands and naturally wooded areas.

The proposed amendment would change the FLUM Designation and Official Zoning map from Corporate Park to High Density Residential. High Density Residential allows residential development at a density up to 15 dwelling units per acre, as well as certain complementary uses, such as a limited range of neighborhood-scale retail and services. Both ordinances were approved on first reading with a second and final reading to be held at a later date.

Sweger also requested approval of a second and final reading for a Large-Scale Comprehensive Plan Amendment (LSCPA) to change the FLUM Designation of Agriculture on 162.5 acres into three designations. These designations are Community Commercial on seven acres, Low Density Residential on 115.5 acres, and Moderate Density Residential on 40 acres. Also requested was rezoning the Official Zoning Atlas from Agricultural (A) and Agricultural (Alachua County) to Planned Development-Residential (PD-R) on 155.5 acres and Community Commercial (CC) on seven acres. The property is located south of the intersection of Northwest U.S. Highway 441 and Northwest 188th Street. The property is undeveloped and is primarily comprised of lands used as a tree farm and planted pine.

The Commission also considered a request from John C. Vick III of V3 Capital Group, to amend the City of Alachua Land Development Regulations (LDRs). The proposed amendments would revise use-specific separation requirements for “Vehicle Sales and Services,” which regulate development and spacing of commercial businesses dealing with automobile and boat repair services and sales.

Current LDRs require a minimum separation of 250 feet from schools, day care centers, residential uses, or vacant land in residential zone districts. The V3 Capital Group contends that the separation requirement does not consider intervening roadways or how enhanced buffering can serve as an additional separation tool between uses.

The amendment reduces the minimum separation to 100 feet and to 50 feet when an enhanced landscape buffer is provided A second condition that would permit a reduction in separation is when the “Vehicle Sales and Service” use fronts U.S. Highway 441. The City has established U.S. Highway 441 as a commercial corridor, which allows for commercial development along the roadway. The applicant contends that by reducing the separation requirement, the City will maximize existing and future land use patterns along this corridor, which promotes a planned and logical development pattern.

In other business, Sweger also proposed to amend the Future Land Use Map (FLUM) and Official Zoning Atlas on a 51.7-acre property from Agriculture and Rural/Agriculture (Alachua County) to Moderate Density Residential. This property is located south of Peggy Road, east of Interstate – 75, and north of the CSX rail right-of-way. There is currently one existing residential unit on the property. The Moderate Density Residential FLUM Designation would permit a density of up to four dwellings per acre with a maximum of 206 dwelling units.

The Commission heard a request by Logan Peters, P.E., of JBPro, Inc., applicant and agent for Tara Baywood, LLC for approval of the Final Plat for Tara Baywood Phase 1 for a subdivision on a 20.25-acre property into 61 lots, with associated right-of-way and common areas. The property is located west of Baywood Subdivision, and north of Lowe’s Home Improvement Store.

The proposed development will be required provide for 179 replacement trees to be planted to mitigate for trees to be removed. The City requires tree replacement of trees taken down during development to replace healthy regulated trees, and requires regulated trees to be replaced on a one-for-one basis, and for heritage and champion trees to be replaced on an inch-for-inch basis

The Commission also heard a request for approval of the final plat of Tara Forest East Phase 1, which proposes a subdivision on a10.86-acre property into 32 lots, with associated right-of-way and common areas.

The Commission approved a resolution establishing 5.3900 as the Proposed Millage Rate for Fiscal Year 2022-2023, which is 8.1 percent more than the Rolled-Back Rate of 4.9860. The City is currently developing its upcoming Fiscal Year budget based on the proposed General Fund millage rate of 5.3900 mills, which is the same as that in the current fiscal year. The first public hearing on the Milage rate change will be held Sept. 12.

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NEWBERRY ‒ Justin Harold Krumwiede, 41, of Newberry, has been charged with lewd and lascivious exhibition, possessing child pornography and directing a sexual performance by a child after another 12-year-old victim came forward.

Krumwiede was previously arrested in March after a girl came forward to accuse him of raping her three times in 2019-2020 when she was 11 years old. At that time, he posted $250,000 bail and was released, but he was arrested again in May and charged with three counts of possession of obscene material after pornographic materials were found on his devices. He has been held in the Alachua County Jail since then on a $1.5 million bail.

A second victim has now come forward. The girl’s parents, who are reportedly friends of Krumwiede’s, let her spend the night at Krumwiede’s house during spring break of 2021, when she was 12.

Krumwiede’s spouse and her children were out of town, so the victim was alone with Krumwiede. The victim said that she slept in one of the kids’ bedrooms, then woke up and went into the back yard to read a book. She said that while she was outside, Krumwiede came outside completely nude, laid a towel on the ground and lay down on his back to get some sun. She said she was “stunned” at this.

The victim also reported that Krumwiede would walk around the house completely naked while she was there and that similar behavior had happened while she had been at the house in the past with the victim in the first case.

The victim’s family told a Gainesville Police Department detective that on the day Krumwiede was released on bail in April, he took a short walk with their daughter and told her that he had a picture of her nude torso on his phone and had accidentally forgotten to delete it. He said he had intended to send it to her parents to explain to them “how she was dressed inappropriately,” but the parents said he had never mentioned the picture before that day.

The detective reported that a search of Krumwiede’s seized desktop, laptop and cell phones showed “numerous” photos of this victim lying asleep on the bed in the kids’ room; some show her shirt pulled all the way up to her neck, with her torso fully exposed.

Krumwiede has been charged with lewd and lascivious behavior on a victim between the ages of 12 and 16, possession of obscene material and directing a sexual performance by a child. An additional $1,000,000 bond has been added to the previous $1,500,000 and $250,000.

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HIGH SPRINGS ‒ Local environmentalist Rhonda Long was killed in an accident in South Florida on June 19. Long was well known in the High Springs community and among environmental groups associated with the rivers that offer beauty, recreation and water from the aquafer. For Long, the rivers were her playground where she spent much of her time kayaking. And this love of the local environment and rivers led her to dedicate herself to preserving them.

She was the Stewardship Chair for the Our Santa Fe River (OSFR) organization, Director for the Riverfest Songwriters benefit and Founder of the Eelgrass Restoration Project. Long also taught classes at Fort White High School in Aquatic Horticulture. She was the co-founder of a suicide prevention organization that raised funds for preventing suicides and helping surviving family members cope with the loss.

The primary method of fund raising was a 96-mile river paddle each year, which she completed for the past four years. Long also worked at Rum 138 canoe outpost, giving tourists advice about the best parts of the rivers to visit. In addition, she also often portrayed a mermaid at various fundraising events for the rivers, earning her the nickname of “Mermaid Rhonda.”

Long’s passion for the environment was just part of how she gave back to others. She worked on various benefits, helped those who needed assistance medically or for transportation, including her parents, Donna and Joe Long, who she moved from Illinois due to multiple medical issues.

Friends recall that Long always projected a happy and warm personality, lighting up the room and had nothing but kind words for everyone. She was well known for all her charity work and popular figure in town with her ability to make those she was talking with the undivided focus of her attention.

Long had travelled to Coco Beach on June 19 to attend the wake of her friend, Randy Fortner, who had died suddenly from a brain aneurysm. Driving home to High Springs at 10 p.m. on a two-lane Highlands County road, the car in front of her stopped on the highway and attempted a U-turn, blocking both lanes. With no time to react, Long hit the car broadside. Killed in the accident was a 13-year-old girl in the other car and Long, who passed while being life flighted to a hospital.

Long’s friends were both shocked and devasted that someone so full of life, passion and kindness was suddenly gone. It was especially devasting for her elderly parents who were dependent on Long for everything, including her house, which still had a mortgage on it.

People wanted to honor her life and her dedication to both the environment and her friends and family. A Go Fund Me page was set up to raise funds for her family and her final expenses. It was also decided to hold a Celebration of Life with some of the many musicians she knew and enjoyed hearing.

The group of friends approached Baram Kim, owner of the Great Outdoors and Pink Flamingo restaurants in High Springs to inquire about using one of the venues for a concert. Kim, who was also a friend of Long, immediately offered the Pink Flamingo to hold the event.

On Saturday, July 30 there will be that memorial Celebration of Life fundraiser at the Pink Flamingo to raise funds for Long’s elderly parents who have multiple medical issues. Music will be provided by Thom Duncan, Mike Bouleware and In The Moment band, along with possible special appearances by other musicians who knew her. All are playing for free so all proceeds will go to her family. There will also be a 50-50 drawing, a silent auction featuring donated art and other objects from local artists and businesses, along with a raffle of smaller objects.

The event is open to everyone who would like to attend. All proceeds will go to Long’s family to either use for their expenses or give to her environmental organizations, if they choose. But just as important, the Celebration of Life will honor a woman who dedicated herself to others with a life well lived but cut short too soon.

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NEWBERRY ‒ Riled Newberry residents turned out for the City of Newberry July 24 Commission meeting to express their concerns regarding a request for a zoning change from Residential, Single-Family (RSF-2) to Planned Residential Development (PRD) on 6.95 +/- acres.

This item was heard by the Planning and Zoning Board on July 5 with many of the same residents voicing their opposition at that time. The property is located northeast of the Newberry Oaks subdivision. Initially, the development, which is known as Eden Garden, was planned to include townhouses, duplexes and single-family homes. However, following several comments from residents that they would be okay with single-family detached homes but not with three-story townhouses or duplexes, property owners Joel and Sophie Lancaster agreed to eliminate the townhouses and duplexes from their plan.

Following the owners’ compromise, audience members seemed satisfied and the Planning and Zoning Board voted to recommend approval to the City Commission.

JBPro’s Director of Engineering Chris Potts presented the project on behalf of the owners at Monday night’s City Commission meeting. Current zoning on that site allows four units per acre. Due to existing overhead transmission lines owned by Duke Energy that run parallel to the abutting limits of the Newberry Oaks subdivision, an area of approximately 3.5 acres, utilizing the existing RSF-2 zoning requires lot sizes of 10,000 square feet each severely hinders the economic viability of developing the site.

The requested change to PRD zoning district allows the owners to take of advantage of unique lot configurations in order to make the site developable that would otherwise not be possible due to the Duke Energy easement and the current RSF-2 zoning district.

The owners propose a minimum lot size of 5,000 square feet and minimum lot width of 50 feet. The residential sites account for approximately 2.2 acres of the total site. The remaining developable area of the site amounts to approximately 1.1 acres, which will be utilized for circulation and other infrastructure improvements. The 150-foot-wide electrical easement is planned as open space.

When the Planning and Zoning board forwarded their recommendation for approval to the City Commission it was with the condition that the “application be limited to detached single-family home building types only” based on the compromise. Potts explained that this condition will reduce the number of possible dwelling units; however, the owners have not finalized this number yet. He said that a more finite number will be able to be identified at time of platting.

Lack of a definite number of intended dwelling units, confusion about the property’s actual size relative to the City’s Land Development Regulation requirements (based on the County’s taxable versus actual number of acres) and concerns about stub-outs for future ingress/egress opportunities that are not easily observed on the plans led to a motion and second to deny the application.

Once Commissioners realized that a denial would mean that the applicants would not be able to reapply for 12 months, Commissioners voted instead to table in a 4-1 vote. Commissioner Monty Farnsworth cast the dissenting vote. The resulting vote to table will allow the owners additional time to determine the number of housing units they would need to develop to make the project cost effective.

Small-Scale Rural Subdivisions

In other business, commissioners unanimously approved a text amendment to add Small-Scale Rural Subdivisions as a use allowed by special exception in the (A) Agricultural Zoning District. This amendment is in response to multiple requests received by the City for estate-style residential development incorporating open space and/or low-intensity agricultural uses at a density greater than one dwelling unit per five acres.

Currently, there have not been development regulations guiding this type of development outside of those developments qualifying as Planned Rural Residential Development (greater than 25 lots). This text amendment addresses that gap in regulatory guidance for development. The special exception process provides a legal mechanism for the City’s Board of Adjustment to allow uses, in this case, a dwelling unit density greater than typically permitted in the Agricultural zoning district.

Town Square Phase 5 Final Plat

Commissioners also approved a request by Norfleet Green Construction, II, LLC, for Country Way at Newberry Town Square Phase 5 Final Plat conditioned on the delivery of the executed surety device. “The plat has been thoroughly reviewed by the City’s surveyor for compliance with state law and the City’s Land Development Regulations,” said Planning and Economic Development Director Bryan Thomas. “All issues or concerns relating to the Phase 5 final plat have been satisfactorily addressed by the applicant.”

Construction plans for Phase 5 infrastructure were approved by the Commission on March 22, 2021 and have been constructed. To obtain final plat approval prior to completion and/or acceptance by the City of the required infrastructure, a surety device for the Phase 5 infrastructure has been provided by the owner. The device provides guaranteed funds for the completion of the infrastructure in the event of default by the developer. The surety has been reviewed and approved by the city attorney.

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HIGH SPRINGS ‒ Changes are in store for people driving and parking in downtown High Springs.  The High Springs City Commission earlier this summer approved an ordinance that restricts the use of vehicles of more than three axels from traveling on Northwest 186th Avenue (formerly known as U.S. Highway 27 Alternate). And concerns over large vehicles parking in the downtown area prompted changes to parking in that area in an effort to relieve traffic congestion, especially along Main Street.

“The City has been working on various plans to deal with the traffic and congestion in our downtown roads,” said High Springs Public Information Officer Kevin Mangan. “We are initiating a plan to limit parking to compact car parking only on High Springs Main Street between US Highway 27 and Northwest 185th Avenue.”

Main Street was designed over 100 years ago as a quiet two-lane road with parking places designed for smaller cars than many of the current SUVs and pickup trucks. Today, High Springs’ burgeoning downtown business district, along with steady truck traffic along Main Street, creates congestion and potentially unsafe conditions.  The street was not designed for the current traffic load and cannot be expanded without removing all parking and extensive street work, not a viable option according to the City of High Springs.

The best solution at least cost is to limit what vehicle lengths can park on Main Street to help limit obstructions and the flow of traffic. City officials say the new restrictions will help alleviate traffic congestion and hazards, reduce bumper overhang on roadways, ensure the maneuverability of emergency vehicles, and provide a proactive approach to help reduce accidents. 

The City is defining a “compact” car or vehicle between 100 and 109 cubic feet of interior space and between 161 and 187 inches in length and does not include trucks, vans, or large SUVs.

A compact car parking space will be a minimum of eight feet in width and 16 feet in length. Parking spaces are now visibly marked as “Compact Car” parking spaces with signage on both sides of the street.

“We are going to start with the signs and an information campaign to make people aware of the change,” said Mangan. “This will help with traffic flow and is just the first step in the City’s plan to work with the Department of Transportation to deal with the increasing traffic.” 

The High Springs Police Department will be helping with an information campaign by putting flyers on vehicles that are too big for the spaces for a couple months to warn drivers of the new rules.

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ALACHUA ‒ The Alachua Business League (ABL) held their quarterly member meeting on Monday, July 25 at the Lion’s Club building in Alachua. The ABL was honored to have John Spence, a world-renowned business speaker who calls Alachua home, give an interesting presentation on his “Formula for Business Excellence.” Members also enjoyed a “summer picnic” at the themed meeting.

Members were updated on other activities of the Alachua Business League, including plans to increase involvement in city-wide activities like Scarecrow Row and the Holiday Parade, as well as plans for ABL’s 35th Alachua Main Street Harvest festival to be held on Sunday, Nov. 13. Vendors can now register for the festival by going to www.alachuabusiness.com. A great turnout of vendors is expected for this event.

Information was also presented on the ABL’s scholarships, which are given to Santa Fe High School graduates who are going to attend Santa Fe College. In the 2021-2022 school year, scholarships were awarded to five students. Students can get more information on the scholarship application for the 2022-2023 school year from their school counselor.

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HIGH SPRINGS ‒ The High Springs Historical Society aims to preserve a bit of High Springs for 70 years. The organization was granted permission by the City Commission to bury a time capsule to the right of the front steps of the Historic High Springs Elementary School and Community Center located at 23760 N.W. 187th Avenue. The time capsule is slated to be buried on Oct. 22, 2022 and opened on Saturday, May 24, 2092.

The Historical Society anticipates the 2092 opening date to be used to commemorate the 200th anniversary of High Springs. High Springs was incorporated in 1892 after changing its name from Orion on May 24, 1888.

The High Springs Historical Society proposes a day-long celebration of burying the time capsule on Oct. 22, 2022 if their special event permit is approved. The event will include a bar-b-que contest and tractor show. The time capsule will be filled with artifacts relating to High Springs.

The City will have an opportunity to place a small box of items in the time capsule, while others in the community will also be able to place items in the capsule by purchasing a manila envelope or small bag. The time capsule will serve as a fundraiser for the Historical Society while also serving as the beginning of High Springs’ bi-centennial celebration.

City officials will be invited to participate in the time capsule burying ceremony.

The time capsule will measure 3 feet x 2 feet x18 inches and will be sealed. In order to ensure the safety of the time capsule and surrounding area, items such as liquids, explosives and perishable will be prohibited.

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