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HIGH SPRINGS ‒ High Springs is annexing over 735 acres into the city, property that may be used for a solar farm. Commissioners voted on three ordinances annexing a total of approximately 735.17 acres into High Springs at the Dec. 9 City Commission meeting.

Ordinance 2021-09 was approved on second reading in a 4-1 vote with Commissioner Katherine Weitz casting the dissenting vote. This action was brought by property owners Bernard C. and Vivian L. Arndt. Their annexation request consisted of approximately 80 acres and approximately 237.81 acres for a total of approximately 317.81 acres.

Ordinance 2021-10 was also approved on second reading in a 4-1 vote with Commissioner Katherine Weitz casting the dissenting vote. This action was brought by property owner Larry Eugene Jones. His annexation request consisted of approximately 160 acres.

Ordinance 2021-11 was also approved on second reading in a 4-1 vote with Commissioner Katherine Weitz casting the dissenting vote. This action was brought by property owner Patrick McKenzie Post for three pieces of property. His annexation request consisted of approximately 42.36 acres, approximately 160 acres, and approximately 55 acres for a total of approximately 257.36 acres.

All three ordinances were presented by Jerry Dedenbach, CHW Professional Consultants, acting on behalf of Duke Energy Renewables. Although the ordinances did not specify the intended use of the properties, the staff report indicated the eventual use would be for a solar array for Duke Energy.

Two items of concern were brought up during the presentation and voting of these three ordinances. First was that Alachua County had sent a letter to the City with a potential question about a portion of the annexation which they believed caused a finger area serpentine projection.

Dedenbach addressed this concern by showing a map highlighting the one-mile contiguous boundary adjacent to the city limits of High Springs. “It is a reasonably compact area, doesn’t create an enclave nor a pocket and doesn’t create a finger area serpentine projection as Alachua County is stating in their letter,” said Dedenbach. The property in question is accessible via Northwest 142nd Avenue. “It will remain accessible via Northwest 142nd Avenue,” Dedenbach said. In addition, he emphasized that the acreage being added to the City “is only five percent of the City in size and is adjacent to the City limits.”

Dedenbach said he had spoken with the city attorney and North Central Florida Regional Planning Council and the Planning Council forwarded the annexation requests to the City with a recommendation to approve. Dedenbach doesn’t think the County will oppose it and he also said he had contacted the County, but had not heard back by the time of the meeting.

Weitz voiced a concern, saying, “I am not opposed to extra tax revenue for the City by any means. I’m just trying to look forward to where the train is going. What we’re proposing is that the people in High Springs Estates will have a wastewater treatment plant on their southern border and a solar facility on their western border. My concern would be for them in terms of property values,” she said.

Duke Energy’s Dorothy Perno said that they had held a previous workshop and invited everyone for 1.5 miles from the property perimeter to attend. She said they were planning another workshop in January and this time have noticed everyone within 1,320 feet from the property’s perimeter. She said that the public workshops are open to anyone who wants to attend.

In other city business, the Commission considered a request for authorization to begin contract negotiations with Anderson’s Outdoor Adventures, the only company that responded to a request for proposals, for the operation of the Santa Fe Canoe Outpost.

City Manager Ashley Stathatos reminded the Commission that the City was “piggybacking” on a contract with Alachua County to have Anderson operate the facility on an interim basis.

Commissioner Ross Ambrose said he was abstaining from voting on this issue due to a conflict of interest, but the city attorney had said he could participate in the discussion. Ambrose said the proposal submitted by Anderson was “a little lopsided for what we’re [the City] providing.” He suggested that during negotiations something could be worked out to make the agreement “a little more equitable for the investment the citizens are making in maintaining that property.”

Anderson’s proposal for the operation of the Santa Fe Canoe Outpost consists of a contract for a 10-year term beginning Feb. 1, 2022 and ending Jan. 31, 2032. They also specified Commission/Fees at $1,500 base fee per year with an additional three percent on the difference of gross revenue exceeding $ 200,000 a year. They propose to operate a minimum of five days a week year-round with closures on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Years Eve. The services they will provide include paddling, water craft rentals, merchandise sales, shuttle services and events.

Stathatos said there are some “economies of scale there where I think we can do some awesome things together,” because they operate other facilities along the Santa Fe River. She too said she believed their proposal was a bit lopsided, but they could work through that.

Ambrose said his company was providing portable restrooms to another Anderson location and thought that was enough of a reason to abstain.

Although Commissioners did not vote on this issue, they indicated by consensus their approval for staff to enter into negotiations and bring a contract back to the Commission for approval at a later date.

Regarding the waterline project, Assistant City Manager Bruce Gillingham said, “They are still doing the lateral connections.” He also stated that paving was scheduled for Dec. 15. A Rails to Trails meeting was scheduled for Dec. 15 at 2 p.m. and said the new telephone system was going in throughout the city on Dec. 16.

Mayor Williams said another Farm Share was scheduled for Jan. 29. However, the location is still being determined.

The next City Commission meeting is scheduled for Jan. 13, 2022, at 6:30 p.m.

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