BOCC to tackle solar code, COVID, Meridian budget

The Alachua County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) will update Unified Land Development Code (ULDC) language, hear from health experts on the status of the COVID-19 pandemic and receive Meridian Behavioral Health Care’s annual report on Tuesday.

The regular meeting starts at 11:30 a.m. and will also include the ratification of the “Declaration of State of General Emergency in Alachua County due to Delta Variant of COVID-19,” according to the agenda. BOCC Chair Ken Cornell declared the emergency on Thursday

The ULDC amendments are in direct response to Senate Bill 896, known as the Renewable Energy bill, which expands solar permitting rights.

“A solar facility shall be a permitted use in all agricultural land use categories in a local government comprehensive plan and all agricultural zoning districts within an unincorporated area and must comply with the setback and landscaped buffer area criteria for other similar uses in the agricultural district,” the bill states. 

Last month, attorneys for Origis Energy cited the new law to argue that the BOCC must approve the company’s application to put a solar farm in Archer. The BOCC voted down the proposal. 

The Alachua County Department of Health will also give an update on the status of COVID-19 and the delta variant as schools open. The BOCC will also hold further discussion about the state of emergency and how it affects the board’s rules of procedure.

Meridian Behavioral Health Care (MBHC) staff will present its annual report and request for funds for 2022.

MBHC provides comprehensive care that includes telehealth care, walk-in services, mental health and substance use disorder treatment and psychiatric staff for adults and children on a daily basis.

Programs that benefit from MBHC support include co-responder teams with law enforcement, housing services, and substance abuse programs.

The requested funds from the BOCC total $895,556, and the expected local match requirement is $2,858,392, according to the MBHC.

The complete agenda is available online.

The meeting is open to the public, but the BOCC is again requiring masks, regardless of vaccination status. The commission will take comments both in person and virtually. Members of the public may call 800-876-7516 or email bocc@alachuacounty.us to provide comment. 

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