Newberry, Archer to modify lawsuit against county

The cities of Newberry and Archer will discuss modifying a lawsuit against Alachua County at separate meetings on Monday, pausing two counts of the lawsuit while pursuing a third, as the cities move forward with an appeal.

The cities, joined by the City of Alachua, filed suit over the county’s Growth Management Charter Amendment (GMA) that garnered 50.1 percent of the vote in the November 2020 election. The amendment passed by 265 votes out of more than 140,000 cast. 

The GMA allows the county to still regulate certain land annexed into municipalities, setting limits on city growth and control.

“The County’s comprehensive plan and land development regulations will exclusively govern land development in the Area, whether inside or outside municipal boundaries,” the GMA ballot language read.  

Newberry Mayor Jordan Marlowe said the amendment forces certain land owners to observe both city and county regulations. He added that the amendment interferes with Florida’s Home Rule law, allowing local government to rule itself without outside approval.

“This has deprived my city and every other city inside Alachua County of having ultimate authority over their future,” Marlowe said in a phone interview. 

The interference within another entity’s jurisdiction forms the key to the cities’ first count against Alachua County. Other issues include the county’s wording and explanation of the amendment when it arrived before citizens for the vote. 

If the cities win on the larger first count, the other two issues will lose importance, but if the cities lose on the first count, they can resume the other two charges. 

The lawsuit failed in the local 8th Judicial Circuit, but the cities appealed to Florida’s 1st District Court of Appeal in March 2021.

“No one ever expected this suit to win inside Alachua County,” Marlowe said in a phone interview. “We always were pretty confident that we would have to wait for the appellate court.” 

The Newberry City Commission will discuss the lawsuit as part of its regular meeting on Monday. The commission will hold a swearing-in ceremony at 6 p.m. after city elections earlier this month. The commission will then convene at 7 p.m. for its meeting. 

The Archer City Commission will hold a special meeting on Monday at 6 p.m. with only the lawsuit on the agenda. Its next regular meeting will take place May 5. 

The City of Alachua already held its meeting on the lawsuit on Thursday.

 

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