The City of Newberry has been busy annexing property not only in the last few regular commission meetings but also in the last decade.
On Monday night, the commission unanimously approved the annexation of two parcels adding up to 48 acres.
In prior meetings from April to July, the commission approved the annexation of eight parcels ranging in size from just two acres up to 311 acres. The parcels were added to the city at the request of mostly residential developers and private citizens, who often then rezoned the newly annexed properties from agricultural to residential or planned development to accommodate new housing projects ranging from a few duplexes to some 1,400 residential units.
According to Ben Chumley, an Alachua County principal planner who reviews municipal annexations for Alachua County, Newberry has been annexing property “at a staggering amount.”
“Newberry is literally about the same size as Gainesville,” Chumley noted, but explained that a vast majority of acreage in Newberry City limits is still zoned as agriculture.
Chumley recently created two tables of information about Alachua County municipalities involving population and annexed acres.
According to Chumley’s data, from 2000 to 2020, Gainesville annexed 9,268 acres compared to Newberry annexing 8,634 acres in that same time period. Archer came in third with 4,255 acres annexed, and Micanopy came in last with just 5 acres added to the city limits over the 10-year period.
Hawthorne added 2,921 acres, High Springs added 2,295, Alachua added 2,097, LaCrosse added 1,937 acres and Waldo just 443 acres through annexation between 2000 and 2010.
Chumley’s second table represents the size of municipalities and their populations.
Gainesville and Newberry top the list with Gainesville at 41,327 acres and a population of 133,068 and Newberry with 37,976 acres and a population of 6,573 by 2020.
The City of Alachua came in third with 23,325 acres and a population of 10,298, while Micanopy is 690 acres with a population of 615.
According to Newberry Mayor Jordan Marlowe, the population of Newberry is now at about 6,800, up since the 2020 census and will continue to grow as major developments that have been in the works for years and even decades start to take shape.
Marlowe has been keeping his constituents up to date on the growth in Newberry via his Facebook page because he said he believes in transparency and he wants to make sure residents understand that the growth spurt they are witnessing now will not be a burden on the city’s infrastructure such as utilities, waste water and sewer systems.
He said a lot of the recent annexations are a result of “a concerted effort to shut down some of that Swiss cheese because it creates confusion for solid waste, roads department, fire crew and emergency services.”
By “Swiss cheese” Marlowe is referring to pockets of property that have neighboring parcels in the city limits and others in unincorporated Alachua County. Newberry has been working to turn those pockets into contiguous acres, which, according to Chumley, is a main Florida requirement for land to be annexed.
Chumley said annexed properties have to be reasonably compact and contiguous with the existing municipal boundary and not create an unincorporated enclave. An enclave happens when an unincorporated parcel becomes surrounded by city parcels and vice versa, he explained.
The Florida statute requires that a county where the annexation is set to occur must be notified.
“Sometimes we’ll see an annexation and, for whatever reason, it doesn’t meet the qualifications of the statute,” Chumley said. And that’s when the county gets involved and reminds the municipality of the requirements which are often solved through conflict resolution.
Marlowe said that City of Newberry residents need not worry about the upcoming growth they are seeing as bulldozers and backhoes stay busy near the Easton-Newberry Sports Complex or behind Hitchock’s grocery store near County Road 235.
Slated developments already underway or soon to be in Newberry include Treehouse Village RV Resort 850 sites, Avalon Woods 260 single family homes, Sapp Mixed Use development 700 residential units plus commercial space, Venco Mixed Used development with 500 residential units, Oak Park with 114 residential units, ARC 55 and older community with 900 residential units, CR 337 development with 270 residential units, Country Way Town Center with 365 residential units, Newberry Ridge with 999 residential units and Sandia Town Park with 1,400 residential units, sports arenas, plus a future bowling alley, movie theater and light industrial units.
“If every single one came online tomorrow, we’d still have capacity at our wastewater plant right now,” Marlowe said.
And plans for the future include a regional wastewater treatment facility to benefit Archer and other nearby municipalities, Marlowe said.
Where Marlowe, who is also a teacher at Newberry High School, said he has concerns is Alachua County growing the unincorporated Jonesville area that currently has a population close to Newberry’s at about 6,900.
“The school board has set a target on Newberry as far as growth,” Marlowe said. And each household added to Newberry or Jonesville could have an impact on school capacity at Newberry High School, Newberry Elementary School and Oak View Middle School in Newberry.
“Jonesville should probably be a city,” Marlowe suggested.