BOCC creates new grant, modifies flagpole code

The Alachua County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) met on Tuesday for its regular meeting to discuss flag requirements, a new grant program and the new Alachua County sports complex. 

Zero Waste grant program: 

The BOCC voted to fund a new grant program that focuses on reducing waste in Alachua County. The program will make available $200,000 in grants with a maximum of $40,000 per applicant. 

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The county will divert the funds from its bulk storage facility located within the ECOLOOP Phase II budget.

Patrick Irby, waste alternatives manager, said if the program finds success, the county could finance it through tipping fees at the transfer station. 

Irby said the grant program came out of talks over the Zero Waste plan and a desire to “tap into the knowledge and enthusiasm of our community.” 

He said the grant seeks to increase innovation and development of Zero Waste programs like food waste composting, recycling, education and construction and development recycling. 

To be eligible, non-governmental, nonprofit and for-profit entities must be located within Alachua County, in good standing with the state and meet the county’s minimum wage ordinance. Irby said staff tried to keep the terms simple and broad since the grant is new.  

The funds must go toward new activities or enhancing existing programs, but companies or nonprofits can’t apply for the grant to simply finance what it already does. 

The applications will be judged based on how it aligns with the county’s Zero Waste Plan, its waste reduction and the application’s reliance on grant funds. 

Commissioner Anna Prizzia asked why the staff capped the allocation amount at $40,000.

Irby said staff would rather see multiple entities participate instead of one big project, especially for the first iteration of the grant. 

Staff added that keeping the amount smaller would also encourage small businesses or nonprofits to apply instead of large corporations. 

Prizzia also asked if part of the funding could be available upfront. Staff presented a reimbursement plan, but Prizzia said organizations without ready cash flow would be unable to apply. 

According to county staff, Florida statutes allow the county to give 25 percent of the grant total upfront but only to nonprofits.

Commissioner Mary Alford, who made the motion, agreed to allow 25 percent of funds to be given upfront to nonprofits. 

During public comment, Mark Goldstein approved of the program but called the term “zero waste”  a political word and not true to life. 

Commissioner Ken Cornell agreed with Goldstein, saying the term repels some community members. 

“I think we should call it a reduced waste program because I think that’s just honest speak,” Cornell said. “Every time we say zero there’s a whole part of our society that just stops listening because they know that’s not realistic.” 

The BOCC added in the motion to pass the grant program a request for staff to present different naming options besides “zero waste.” 

The motion passed unanimously. 

Commissioner Anna Prizzia speaks at the commission meeting

Flagpole height changes:

Currently, Alachua County’s land development code restricts residential flagpoles to 25 feet and non-residential to 30 feet.

At Veteran’s Memorial Park, the flagpole, installed before the current code, stands at 35 feet, and the Veterans Memorial Committee requests permission to install a new 50-foot pole. 

According to the backup material, the change would allow for greater visibility throughout the 23-acre park and also keep the flag further off the ground when placed at half-staff. 

The BOCC agreed with the Veterans Memorial Committee but worried the change would allow all non-residential areas to increase to 50 feet as well. 

The land development code must have uniformity in application to all like users, stay content neutral and have reasons for any changes or differences between users. 

Staff presented two options: change nothing—preventing a change at Veteran’s Memorial Park—or change the land code to allow one flagpole at non-residential locations to have a 50 foot height cap if the flagpole is more than 100 feet from the property boundary. 

Cornell said he liked the second option, to modify the code, but asked if the provision could be limited to just government buildings, institutional uses or some further modifier. 

Alachua County Attorney Sylvia Torres said the question of restricting flagpole heights is an issue of free speech. The county would need reasons for allowing institutional developments to have further free speech (ie. higher flagpoles) than other non-residential developments. 

“I would really like to be able to give them this 50-foot flagpole, but I am not ok with giving an average commercial business a 50-foot flagpole,” Prizzia said. “I do not need 50 foot flagpoles all over this county flying whatever dang flag people want to fly.”

Prizzia made a motion for staff to consider ways for the county to grant Veteran’s Memorial Park special exception to the code, but staff explained the second recommendation was the cleanest way forward, allowing a 50-foot flagpole at the park while limiting as much as possible other areas who could make the change. 

Ultimately, the BOCC voted unanimously to allow the change to the land development code for 50-foot flagpoles at non-residential developments if they are further than 100 feet from the property boundary. 

The motion also directed staff to look at adding restrictions on flag size to the code. The county will hold a public hearing on the issue before a permanent vote. 

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