Last updateThu, 20 Aug 2015 9pm


FWC restricts boating on Suwannee River’s Zone 4

When Suwannee River floodwaters at Wilcox rose above 9 feet on Sept. 1, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) activated boating restrictions on Zone 4.

This section is from the County Road 340 Bridge at Rock Bluff to 1 mile below the Fowler Bluff Boat Ramp. This 51-mile segment will be an idle-speed, no-wake zone as long as the Suwannee is at 9 feet on the Wilcox gauge, where flood stage is 11 feet.

A 32-mile section on the Santa Fe River, Zone 5, which runs from River Rise within O’Leno State Park west to the confluence of the Suwannee River, was activated Aug. 23. This area of the river becomes an idle speed, no wake zone when the Santa Fe River reaches 17 feet as indicated on the Three Rivers gauge, where flood stage is 19 feet.

Another zone was activated Friday. Zone 3, a 23-mile segment which runs from Little River Spring to the County Road 340 Bridge at Rock Bluff, becomes an idle-speed, no-wake zone when the Suwannee River reaches 24 feet or more above mean sea level at the Branford gauge.

FWC officers are patrolling both rivers to ensure boaters comply with the idle-speed, no-wake rule, said Capt. Marty Redmond, area supervisor at the FWC’s Lake City office. The FWC encourages boaters to stay off the Suwannee-Santa Fe river system until conditions improve.

An idle-speed, no-wake zone means a vessel must proceed at a speed no greater than what is required to maintain steerageway and headway. At no time is any vessel required to proceed so slowly that the operator is unable to control it or anything it may be towing.

The two zones that remain inactive are:

  • Zone 1 - from the U.S. 90 Bridge at Ellaville south to the State Road 51 Bridge at Luraville. This 39-mile segment becomes an idle-speed, no-wake zone when the Suwannee River reaches 47 feet or more above mean sea level at the Ellaville gauge, where flood stage is 54 feet.
  • Zone 2 - from the S.R. 51 Bridge at Luraville to Little River Spring. This 18-mile segment becomes an idle-speed, no-wake zone when the Suwannee River reaches 26 feet or more above mean sea level at the Branford gauge, where flood stage is 29 feet.

For more information about the flood zones, please call 386-758-0525. To report violations, call 888-404-3922.

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Controversial roads in Hague vacated by city

ALACHUA – The likely construction of a Dollar General store in the Hague area of Alachua appears to be back on track despite outcries from some nearby residents. In a 4-1 vote Monday, July 8, City of Alachua commissioners approved the vacating of two roadways platted but never constructed or used on the parcels of land where the retail store would locate.

The move on Monday came as a result of a hearing on the matter at a June 24 meeting in which three commissioners opted to delay the process of removing the platted roads due to claims by some nearby residents that doing so would be illegal and that the land wasn’t even in the City of Alachua.

Located at the northwest corner of CR 237 and U.S. 441, the three parcels of land are owned by John and Kelly Freeland who have already obtained preliminary site plan approval pending the vacating of the roadways in question.

Brandon Stubbs, planner for the City of Alachua, addressed the concerns of Vice Mayor Shirley Green Brown and commissioners Gary Hardacre and Robert Wilford.

Stubbs said Stanley Street and Oak Street have never been dedicated or utilized by the city. The city has never claimed any rights to any portion of the property and had no interest in future use of the roads, which exist only as “paper roads.”

The portions of Stanley Street and Oak Street are located on John and Kelly Freeland’s property. The city will have no basis for improvement of the streets, since they serve no public purpose, he said.

Gerry Dedenbach, planning and GIS service director of Causseaux, Hewett & Walpole, Inc., said the Freelands are requesting to remove paper streets from their private property in an effort to clear their property’s title deficiency as identified by legal counsel.

According to Florida statute, the partial plat vacation will not affect the ownership or right of convenient access of persons owning other parts of the subdivision, Dedenbach said.

Some residents from the Hague area spoke against the motion on the floor and defended the historic atmosphere of Hague Cemetery, which lies across the road from the planned development. Some said they do not want to see a Dollar General in the view of the cemetery.

Lynn Coullias, a resident of Oaks at Hague, said county commissioners already vacated the streets, and it is all county land.

Coullias said the commission is “spot zoning.”

Spot zoning is the process of zoning a single parcel or area of land without regard for an overall development plan or nearby property.

Despite Coullias’ assertions, the commission did not take any zoning action on the property, but merely relinquished any claims to the platted but unconstructed roads.

Other residents were concerned with the Dollar General’s site plan that had previously been approved for the property by the city’s Planning and Zoning Board.

Mayor Gib Coerper reminded residents who spoke at Monday’s meeting that the matter before the commission was the vacating of the roads, not approval of a Dollar General store at the site.

Referring to the commission meeting, Jeannette Hinsdale, resident of Alachua, said, “What happened tonight is what should have happened at the planning and zoning meeting.”

After nearly a half hour of comments by residents, some of whom voiced their support for vacating the roads, commissioners Hardacre, Wilford and Ben Boukari, Jr. and Mayor Coerper voted to pass the partial vacating of the plat.

Boukari and Wilford defended their decisions on the basis of it being the property rights of the applicants, John and Kelly Freeland.

Vice Mayor Shirley Green Brown voted against it.

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Second Dollar General store in Alachua delayed

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U. S. Highway 441 near Hague is the proposed site of a Dollar General retail store.

ALACHUA – Where the new Dollar General store in Alachua is likely to locate appears to have hit a roadblock at a city commission meeting Monday evening.

On June 11, the City of Alachua Planning and Zoning Board approved a site plan for the property located at the northwest corner of CR 237 and U.S. 441. This is the proposed location for a second Dollar General retail location in Alachua and is being developed by Concept Development, LLC.

However, facing pressure from a half dozen residents opposed to the development at that location, which is near the Oaks of Hague neighborhood, on June 24, the city commission scheduled a special commission meeting on July 8 for further discussion of the matter.

At Monday’s commission meeting, City Planner Brandon Stubbs recommended to adopt a resolution vacating two platted streets, which lie within the property to be developed. The streets had never been dedicated to the City of Alachua, opened or used by the public.

“…. Vacation of the governing body of the county will not affect their ownership or the rights for the owners,” Stubbs said.

Lynn Coullias, a resident of Oaks at Hague, presented information in conflict with what the city planner presented about the history of the immediate area. Five other residents followed her lead.

“It is Oak Street and Stanley Street…. which belongs to the Stanley Estate,” Colias said. “It is preserved land under the Domingo Fernandez Land Grant and borders J. S. Sanchez Land Grant.”

Coullias added that Spanish land grants protect the property.

John C. and Kelly S. Freeland, owners of the property, were present at the meeting and denied there being any connection of those grants and their property.

Kelly S. Freeland said the residents were not focusing on the issue at hand. The Freelands want the two streets in between their property to be vacated for their title over that property.

It doesn’t matter what is placed on the land for years to come, it has to be settled eventually, she said.

Dan MacDonald, senior director of corporate communications for Dollar General, said the permitting process was still set for the U.S. 441 location.

“We’re working on something, but we haven’t gotten all the pieces together,” MacDonald said.

Matt Cason, a developer for Concept Development, said, “We’ve followed your code [and] your land development regulations. We’ve held neighborhood workshops and advertised as it is described in your code. We disclosed who the tenant is. We came to the P and Z [planning and zoning] board and addressed any concerns that arose. We were issued a site plan approval.”

A traditional Dollar General retail store hires six to 10 people. For determining a location, the company looks at population within 5 miles and a minimum of 5,000 people within a 10-minute drive, among other factors. As few as 1,400 households can support a Dollar General retail outlet, MacDonald said

According to an impact analysis of the property, the average daily trips will be 521, including 50 trips during morning rush hour and 51 trips during afternoon rush hour.

The building meets the permitted use requirements because of the city’s existing Future Land Use and Zoning designations of the property.

The site plan was approved for a 9,100 square foot retail store, a parking lot and associated amenities. It also suggests a freestanding monument sign rather than a tall pole sign.

No vote was taken on the matter as commissioners Gary Hardacre and Robert Wilford and Vice Mayor Shirley Green Brown said they needed more time to review the new materials handed to them at the meeting and the July 8 special meeting was scheduled.

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Eco-friendly options for stormwater

W - Stormwater 1 - Rec Ctr DSCF4511Recent heavy rains reveal the natural flow of runoff surface water at the Hal Brady Recreation Complex in Alachua.

ALACHUA – Stormwater management can be an increasingly costly undertaking for communities. University of Florida graduate Mia Requesens presented her research findings for her master thesis on alternative stormwater methods requiring less maintenance and infrastructure to the Alachua City Commission June 24.

Requesens said that stormwater management is a design to accommodate the water in cities, so any runoff surface water from parking lots and buildings are managed in a specific direction.

An Alachua native, she focused on a method for small communities to develop their own guidelines based on her alternative strategies.

She looked at flooding, pollution and pest control as concerns for her project. She said water can transport pollution from cars, and mosquitoes can breed in standing water.

At the Alachua Harvest Festival, Requesens conducted a visual preference survey with participating residents. She found from her survey that before being educated on the matter, residents chose the most ecologically friendly method but wanted it off-site.

A typical off-site method is underground or pipes leading to a stormwater retention pond.

Eliminating the extra pipes underground and creating a pipe system to go aboveground would be less costly.

Existing pipes would have to be removed, but she said that bringing them to the surface requires fewer infrastructures.

“Communities will save money by reducing stormwater infrastructure that pipes a lot of water.”

She said that standing water shows the water is cleansing. But that standing water time is reduced quicker if there is on-site treatment.

After she explained the concept to the residents, they still like the plans, but they wanted to see more water on-site.

Requesens said those surveyed were most interested in rain gardens and green roofs. Rain gardens are small pocket gardens on a lawn that slowly filter into the ground when the lawn is flooded. But this method only addresses flooding—not cleansing water.

A green roof, a garden on top of a roof, cools the building and recycles the water. It’s a low-maintenance process that saves money on heating and cooling costs. Native plants are the most efficient and cost the least to maintain. She said the Florida Friendly Landscape database allows people to look up the native plants in their city.

You won’t need to fertilize or water, because they’re used to the climate, Requesens said.

Her overall expectation was that people gravitate to more vegetation – if it is attractive and doesn’t require more maintenance.

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Operation Smile gets boost from local organizations

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Woman’s Club members and volunteers display Smile Dolls and small hospital gowns created for children receiving reconstructive surgery through Operation Smile. L-R: Sylvia Fidler, Savannah Hoelle, Barbara Miller, Judi Lewis, Joyce Rodriguez.

HIGH SPRINGS – Two local groups have joined forces in support of Operation Smile, an organization that provides free reconstructive surgeries to repair cleft lip, cleft palate and other facial deformities for children worldwide.

The local General Federation of Women’s Clubs (GFWC) New Century Woman’s Club and the High Springs Sewing Society, a neighborhood group of the American Sewing Guild, are creating smile dolls for the children undergoing surgery. “The dolls’ faces are intentionally left blank so the children can create their own faces on the dolls,” explained Woman’s Club International Outreach Program Chairman Judi Lewis. “The dolls help reduce anxiety and give the children a way to express their feelings about their new faces.”

In addition to the dolls, drawstring care bags and small-sized hospital gowns are being sewn for each child. All are given to the children to keep after their surgeries.

“Regular hospital gowns are too big for these small children,” said Lewis. The bags are created to contain small items for children to play with like crayons and small toys.

Each surgery costs $240 per child. In addition to providing hospital gowns, dolls and care bags, the High Springs Woman’s Club has raised $261 to date to help pay for surgical costs. The money donated was matched by Operation Smile to help fund the cost of surgery for two children.

“Many of the children live in rural areas and have to make their way to makeshift stations for their surgeries,” said Anne Redlus, former GFWC Partnership Chairman located in West Hampton, N.J. “A lot of children are not allowed in public and a lot die young because of their deformity,” she said in a recent telephone interview. Redlus said, “A 45-minute surgery can change their whole world around.”

According to information on Operation Smile’s website, the exact cause of the defect is unknown, but scientists believe genetic and environmental factors, such as maternal illness, drugs or malnutrition, may lead to a cleft lip or cleft palate. If one child in a family is born with a cleft, future children in the family have increased risk to suffer from the same defect. Operation Smile, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, was founded in 1982 in Norfolk, Va. by Dr. William Magee Jr., a plastic surgeon, and his wife, Kathleen, a nurse and clinical social worker. It is now headquartered in Tidewater, Va.

Operation Smile reports that “every 3 minutes a child is born with a cleft. “One in 10 of those children will die before their first birthday. The children who survive are often unable to eat, speak, socialize or smile and, in some places, they are shunned and rejected. In too many cases their parents can’t afford to give them the surgeries they need to lead a productive life.” That is where Operation Smile comes in.

The program has provided 3.5 million comprehensive patient evaluations and over 200,000 free surgeries for children and young adults born with facial deformities. The group also trains doctors in over 60 countries to be able to perform the same surgeries.

For more information on the Operation Smile program or to make a donation, call 386-454-9640 or go to According to Lewis, donations of office supplies are also needed by the organization to help defray operating costs.

Redlus said the General Federation of Women’s Clubs works with U.S. Fund for UNICEF, Heifer International and Shot at Life through the United Nations Foundation and Operation Smile.

The local High Springs New Century Woman’s Club, with approximately 50 members, supports the efforts of Operation Smile through the eight member International Outreach Program with Lewis at the helm. The 10 member High Springs Sewing Society’s neighborhood organizer is Suzie Ann Clark. Both organizations work together on various projects to help the local community as well as on national and international projects.

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