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Community Interest

ALACHUA –  The Nov. 28 City of Alachua Commission meeting opened with a review of the financial health of the city. Finances and Administrative Services Director Robert Bonetti provided a detailed report on the city's budget and the expenditures during the fiscal year. Overall, the city came out ahead, with an anticipated surplus of funds at the years end.

There are six types of funds that make up the city budget. General Funds cover the cities operating expenses and salaries. This includes city government, police and fire, parks and recreation and public works. Special Revenue Funds are collected for special projects and can only be used for that particular project by law. Although they collected 106 percent of the funds needed, they only spent 78 percent, leaving a surplus. Debt Service Funds cover the debts owed by the city, and 100 percent of the debt projects were covered. Capitol Project Funds are used to maintain and fund long term programs with a lengthy investment portfolio. The other two types of funds in the city budget are Enterprise Funds which sell government services to the general public and Internal Service Funds which cover services billed internally between different government departments. Bonetti explained the income and expenditures for each of the six. In summary, he showed that the city’s annual budget amounted to $55,412,138.

Looking to the future, consulting firm CHW's Gerry Dedenbach gave a report on the Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP), which was requested by the city. The project seeks to analyze and identify transportation priorities and issues the city will likely face in the future. The study covers the next 20 years with the goal of relieving traffic issues on the city's roads due to increased traffic caused by a growing resident population and businesses. The report also took into account increased traffic from commercial traffic serving the growing population.  

A key issue is to ensure changes are integrated into the state roadway system and working with the Florida Department of Transportation on road improvement and repair. At present, there are approximately 10,000 people within Alachua's city boundaries and there is a 33 percent increase expected in the next 20 years. This will cause some of the main roadways to experience maximum capacity congestion and increase possible traffic accidents. Roadways that will experience 100 percent use and heavy congestion include Peggy Road, SR 235, U.S. Highway 441 and ramps on I-75. Repair on these roads will also increase. The report suggested that expansion of lanes and better traffic flow by use of signal and stop signs can help alleviate some of the issues. Much of the funding for these roads would come from county and state transportation budgets rather than City of Alachua funds.

Proposed improvements by the city would include downtown parking, sidewalk improvements, resurfacing city streets, neighborhood sidewalk construction and drainage ditch improvements. The cost to the city would be $1,982, 045. The project it still in the study stage and no funds have been allocated for these changes.

The next order of business involved a proposed subdivision in the 12000 block of Northwest 157th street, located west of I-75. Craig Brashier,ACIP, representing the interests of the developer and property owner, was requesting a change in the land use zoning designation for the area . The proposed changes would change the zoning of the area from Agricultural to Moderate Density Residential. Agricultural zoning density designates only one residence per five acres to help keep the land open for agricultural use. Moderate Density Residential would allow up to four residences per acre, thereby making it viable as a housing subdivision. However, a proposed amendment would limit the density to two residences per acre, limiting the housing project to 20 homes.

Four homeowners from the area spoke about their concerns about the project. Some of the issues raised were that they had bought their property with the intention of it staying under the Agricultural zoning to help limit housing to keep the area rural. They also expressed concerns about increased traffic and speeding on what is now a rural dirt road. The city has proposed paving it. Alachua Assistant City Manager Adam Boukari reported on the proposed road changes and their impacts. After hearing all parties concerned the commission voted to approve the housing subdivision to allow developers to build up to two residences per acre.

In other business, the commission discussed a proposed amendment that would authorize the commission to become the board of the Community Redevelopment Agency and establish an advisory board to oversee its operation.

The final order of business was good news for Alachua residents. Due to a new contract with Waste Pro, the company contracted to collect the waste within the city limits, residents will pay a little bit less for trash collection.

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