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• City of Alachua Honors Educator

•  Wilford Will Not Seek Reelection

ALACHUA – Students at W.W. Irby Elementary School will soon benefit from a Catalyst for Change grant.  Mayor Gib Coerper presented Irby Elementary’s Shernee Bellamy with a Certificate of Appreciation for winning the Catalyst for Change grant competition.

The competitive grant program is for teachers and schools to implement projects that increase student engagement and provides opportunities for K-12 students that focus on improving literacy and raising student achievement. 

Bellamy is a second year media specialist at Irby Elementary who has been teaching animation to first grade students.  “The biggest problem has been to be able to get current equipment and technology for the students to be able to create their animation projects,” said Bellamy.  “Now, with this grant money I will have the opportunity to take those stories online, which will allow them to flourish with their own mediums through the lens of Stop Motion Animation.” The grant funds will enable the students to bring their projects to life with current technology.

In what was a surprise to many, Commissioner Robert Wilford announced he will not seek reelection in April.  Reading from a prepared statement, he said it was a hard decision accompanied by reflection, prayer and conversations with his family.  Wilford plans to relocate to St. Augustine where most of his family resides, and where he plans to do volunteer work once they settle into their new location. Wilford closed his remarks by saying he tried to make a difference, and “the end of an era is the start of a new beginning.”

In other business, city staff is currently updating the City of Alachua Comprehensive Plan to reflect recent changes in state law. The amendment to the city’s plan adds a Property Rights Element, as required by changes to the State of Florida Community Planning Act, which became effective July 1, 2021.

The Property Rights Element specifies that the City of Alachua will protect and judicially acknowledged private property rights, will consider private property rights as part of the decision-making process, and that the property owner has the right to physically possess and control his or her interests in the property, including easements, leases and mineral rights.

The property owner also has the right to use, maintain, develop, or improve their property for personal use or for the use of any other person they choose and the right to privacy and exclude others from the property to protect the owner's possessions and property. State law requires the Property Rights Element and the City Commission unanimously passed the amendment.

The Commission approved a request to amend the land use designation on a proposed 160-acre development that is part of the larger 420-acre The Convergence development. The 160-acre land, owned by the University of Florida Foundation, Inc., is adjacent to the Sid Martin Incubator, which is owned by the University of Florida and is focused on providing space for bio and medical technology startup companies. 

The requested land designation changes are for the Cellon Creek development that will be located south of the intersection of Northwest U.S. Highway 441 and Southern Precast Drive and east of Cellon Creek Boulevard. The property is currently undeveloped and is comprised of cleared pasture, and some naturally wooded areas located in the south-central portion of the property and along the south property line. 

The proposed amendment would change the Future Land Use Map (FLUM) designations into a single designation of Corporate Park, which allows for a mixed usage of residential, industry and commercial. Currently the property is divided into Commercial, Community Commercial, High Density Residential and Moderate Density Residential. The Corporate Park designation allows for mixed use throughout the property, paralleling plans for The Convergence.  

Developers are recommending building a secondary road parallel to U.S. Highway 441 to connect it to Progress Park and The Convergence to limit traffic increase on that road due to the expected 1,000 new residential houses from both developments. 

In other business, the Commission considered and approved transmission and tariff agreements between Florida Power & Light (FPL) Company and the City of Alachua.  The agreements provide for the FPL sale and the City’s purchase of power and energy to meet the power supply needs of Alachua Substation No.1. The transaction agreement is to arrange and schedule transmission of purchased power over FPL lines, with the cost absorbed by FPL.

Power purchased by the City also travels over GRU transmission lines to connect to Alachua Substation No. 1.  The agreement with GRU to complete the transmission of FPL power and energy is expected to be completed and presented to the City Commission in February. 

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