BOCC pushes back West End consideration

The Alachua County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) has pushed back a planned discussion of the West End Golf development plan after the developer requested a delay. 

“They said that they would prefer to bring it up when there are five commissioners at the dais, rather than four, and we thought that was a reasonable request,” county spokesman Mark Sexton said in a phone interview. 

Last month the county’s eight-member Local Planning Agency and Planning Commission voted down the developer’s latest plan, which would split the West End property into a 70-home development and 37-acre open space.

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The issue was set to come before the BOCC at Tuesday’s meeting, potentially setting up a pivotal moment in a long-running local controversy over what should happen to the property along Newberry Road. 

We were expecting a large turnout,” Sexton said. 

If the commission had approved the plan, it would have moved on to the state for review. If the commission had voted down the proposal, it would have ended the development effort.

But last week Alachua County Commissioner Mary Alford resigned over a residency issue, leaving the BOCC with four members. That means any item the commission takes up will need a three-fourths majority vote to pass. 

It is unknown how long the commission will be without its fifth member. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is expected to appoint someone to fill the seat until the November special election, but the timing is discretionary.

“It’s out of our control,” Sexton said. “It’s within the governor’s power to appoint someone when he’s ready.

On Friday Supervisor of Elections Kim Barton announced the qualifying period for the special election will be June 13-17. Primaries will take place in August, with the general election to follow in November. The BOCC will then install the new member at its next meeting. 

The commission is still set to take up a variety of issues Tuesday, including a presentation on a proposed statue for the West Lawn of the county’s administration building downtown. 

The submitted proposals all center around the Sankofa bird, and the BOCC decided in December to dedicate the statue to the late Dr. Patricia Hilliard-Nunn, an educator at UF and county activist who died in 2020.

The county sent out a request for proposals, and the Arts Council of Alachua County, a citizen advisory board, worked through the submissions. Out of 15 ranked designs, the council rated two artist submissions at 83 out of 100—one by George Gadson and the other by Tony Stallard. 

The commissioners will approve one of the designs or decide other next steps for the project not to exceed $75,000, with a third of the funds coming from an anonymous donor. 

The BOCC will also look to fill its facilities management director position with Daniel Whitcraft, following the firing of former director Charlie Jackson in February. 

The county said Jackson’s controversial termination came because of inappropriate hiring practices, a charge Jackson denied in county emails. 

Alachua County offered Whitcraft the position in a letter dated May 13 with an annual salary of $130,000. Whitecraft accepted the position on May 15. 

Pending Tuesday approval by the commission, Whitcraft will start work on July 5. 

At Tuesday’s meeting the BOCC will also decide whether to approve Florida’s opioid settlement with Walgreens. Florida will distribute the $683 million settlement throughout the state. Alachua County is slated to receive $787,000 over the next 18 years.  

The county will also vote to turn over the deeds of seven escheated properties to the cities of Gainesville, Waldo and High Springs. Four will go to Gainesville for $1 while High Springs receives two properties for $10 and Waldo gets one deed for $10.

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