by Penny Wheat, Chair 2020 Alachua County Charter Review Commission
On Sept. 10, 2019, the Alachua County Commission appointed the 2019-20 Charter Review Commission. In the subsequent nine months, the CRC held 16 meetings and three public hearings. Public outreach resulted in numerous published media reports, and on the CRC website, the online form received 80 submittals – more than any previous CRC.
After significant public debate and discussion, the County CRC voted to place four charter amendment proposals before voters on the Nov. 3 ballot. The County Charter requires that the County Commission hold a public hearing on CRC-transmitted proposals before voting to place them (as adopted by the CRC) on the ballot. These ballot proposals, a link to the County Charter, and other documents are available on the CRC website: http://ac2020crc.us/
Once voters approve language for the County Charter, only the voters – at a subsequent General Election – can vote to remove it. The four CRC-approved ballot items for voters to consider Nov. 3 are:
County Growth Management Area – This amendment would establish a “County Growth Management Area.” On land within the Area, the County’s comprehensive plan and land development regulations would exclusively govern land development, even if a parcel of land is later annexed into the boundaries of a city. A map of the proposed County Growth Management Area is available on the CRC website. The County Growth Management Area was designed as a compromise, providing areas outside existing city borders where cities could still exercise land use control after annexation. The amendment also allows the County Commission to remove property from the County Growth Management Area by a supermajority vote.
Affordable Housing Trust Fund – This amendment would create an Affordable Housing Trust Fund used to create and sustain affordable housing. The County Commission can fund the Trust Fund from fees on new commercial and residential development and other sources, but the charter amendment does not itself create or authorize any new taxes or fees. The Trust Fund can also accept donations of any kind. If approved by voters, the County Commission would be required to administer the fund, obtain an annual audit, and spend any funds in the Trust Fund to support affordable housing.
“Cleanup” Amendment Removing Unconstitutional Provisions – This amendment would remove two unconstitutional and unenforceable provisions from the County Charter.
First, the amendment would remove a provision that unconstitutionally prohibits protections based on sexual orientation, sexual preference, or similar characteristics.
Second, the amendment removes a provision that imposes unconstitutional residency requirements for Alachua County Commission candidate qualifying. The Florida Constitution [Article VIII, Sec. 1(e)] and Florida Law require County Commission candidates to reside in their district upon election.
Even if this amendment is not approved, these provisions would remain unenforceable, but they would continue to clutter the County Charter.
Candidate Treasurer Reports – This amendment retains the existing requirement that candidates for county office file campaign treasurer reports electronically but removes the requirement that they also file the same campaign treasurer reports on paper. This amendment modernizes the campaign finance disclosure process in Alachua County, and was suggested by the Supervisor of Elections.
Over the next several months, CRC members will be available to speak with you and/or your organization about the County Charter amendment proposals. If you would like for one of us to attend a meeting of your organization, please email CharterReview@alachuacounty.us
2020 Alachua County Charter Review Commission: Doug Bernal, Kali Blount, Scott Camil, James Ingle, Nick Klein, Joe Little, Pradeep Kumar, Stan Richardson, Tamara Robbins, James Thompson, Kristin Young, Penny Wheat