High Springs votes on charter changes, delays Bridlewood item

Commissioner Katherine Weitz speaks during High Springs July 28 regular meeting.
Commissioner Katherine Weitz speaks during High Springs July 28 regular meeting.
Photo by Seth Johnson

The High Springs City Commission voted Thursday to place a series of charter amendments on the November ballot and also delayed an item concerning the Bridlewood development.

The High Springs City Charter is reviewed every eight years for proposed updates, and Sue Weller, who led the charter review board, said the charter hasn’t been changed since 2011. Recommendations can be accepted or rejected by the city commission, and the last series of recommendations were rejected by the then-commissioners.

All the proposed changes presented Thursday were approved unanimously by the city commission. If voters pass the measure, then the city charter will reflect the changes.

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The changes ranged from procedures on tie elections to clarifications on the roles of the commissioners and charter officers.

The changes included provisions to

  • Eliminate commissioner names from the charter and describe only the seat and term limits.
  • Prohibit a runoff election in case of a tie. The winner would be determined by a coin flip of the city clerk.
  • Allow city commissioners to determine how their salary is structured (weekly, monthly, etc)
  • Allow, by supermajority vote, the same commissioner to serve consecutive terms in the mayoral role.
  • Clarify that commissioners cannot direct city staff other than the charter officers. That direction must be given by the city commission as a whole.
  • Give the opportunity to censure commissioners found in violation of the charter.
  • Give guidelines around the forfeiture of office, including missing more than three meetings in a row or violating commissioner qualifications.
  • Prohibit the city manager and city clerk duties from being held by the same person.
  • Require the city manager to gain residency within 12 months with an option to extend.

A full list of changes can be found on the city of High Springs website.

The city commissioners also heard an update on the Bridlewood development. The developers plan to establish a community development district to operate the residential project. Taking on a similar role to a homeowner’s association, the CDD will finance the infrastructure of the development through access to the bond market and issuing special assessments on the property owners within the district.

Agents for the owner explained the workings of a CDD and answered questions for the city commission. Mayor Katherine Weitz said it seemed like the CDD would be its own city within High Springs and asked how available the amenities, like trails and small parks, would be to the entire city.

She said it felt like a switch since a CDD hadn’t been mentioned when the development first began proceeding through city planning.

The agent for the project said CDDs are common throughout Florida and that applications usually come as the permitting phase is underway. He said that the majority of master plan communities use a CDD structure because it allows the development to be the best possible project for the city that it can.

The commissioners decided to hold a workshop to further discuss the item.

The commission approved a site plan for an Anytime Fitness off US 441, just north of Tractor Supply. The business will have a buffer between it and neighboring residences and restrictions on lighting.

The commission also accepted a plan to expand the Shell gas station off South Main Street. The plan would include a car wash and a non-ethanol gas dispenser.

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Control of an existing part of our city should not be relinquished to a private company. Please don’t trust them.