Newberry approves NC Ranch rezoning first reading

Newberry Commissioner Tony Mazon points to a map to illustrate his concern over access points.
Newberry Commissioner Tony Mazon points to a map to illustrate his concern over access points.
Photo by Glory Reitz

The Newberry City Commission unanimously approved the first reading of an ordinance to change the zoning designation for almost 1,300 acres from Agriculture to Planned Development. 

The development is planned to take place in eight phases over the next 50 years, eventually bringing new business space and 4,500 homes to Newberry. The development also reserves land for school use and for emergency services. 

Commissioner Tony Mazon expressed concern that there will not be enough roadways in and out of the development, as currently the only access would be on State Road 45 or U.S. 27/41. 

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“What are the plans in case we have an emergency evacuation?” Mazon asked. 

Newberry’s principal planner Jean-Paul Perez said there are a total of three ingress/egress routes planned, though there may eventually be more, depending on the Florida Department of Transportation’s access standards. 

City Manager Mike New said there are multiple connections from other roads in town onto those two accesses, and that the development will extend utility infrastructure and roadway to the southwest, adding another future access. 

“I don’t think that we necessarily consider it a bypass,” New said. “But I think as our community grows, to the north, that having ways to get out of the northern part of town without going through downtown is probably desirable.” 

Several citizen commenters also voiced their opposition to the project, saying they moved to a country area to enjoy the country atmosphere and do not look forward to seeing so much growth in Newberry. 

One citizen said he does not believe the project will truly be spread over 50 years, instead expecting the development to proceed more quickly through revisions to the plan after approval. 

Each phase of the development will be another plat that must be approved by the city.  

Mayor Jordan Marlowe said Newberry currently adds about 150-180 homes each year, and that city staff cannot handle more than 200 each year. 

City staff will also regularly review the development agreement, though there was some discussion as to how often that land review will happen. Based on state statute, staff recommended an annual review, but Marlowe said he remembers those reviews to be bi-annual. 

Perez said the review would be a high-level “punch list,” not too intensive for staff, but the developer’s agent, Patrice Boyes, said development agreements do not need to be the statutory type. 

Boyes said many local governments choose not to use the statutory type, which involves a lot of checklists and recommended instead a series of development agreements throughout phases and subphases. 

“[A statutory type development agreement] hampers and hems in the local government as much as it does the developer,” Boyes said. 

The development agreement was not part of the rezoning which the commission voted on, so staff will continue to discuss the topic between the first and second readings. 

“To me it seems a little onerous on our staff to say that you’re going to do this every 12 months,” Marlowe said, noting that it takes 2-3 months to review something. 

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