City Commission looks at next area for annexation


Published: Wednesday, November 14, 2012 at 5:23 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, November 14, 2012 at 5:23 p.m.

The week after Gainesville’s latest annexation effort received a sound drubbing, city commissioners are set to have the first vote on scheduling spring referendums on the potential addition of two other areas to the northwest.

This time, commissioners are eyeing two unincorporated portions of voting Precinct 22 that are separated from one another by an area of the precinct that is in the city limits.

The smaller, northern piece of the precinct consists primarily of the Magnolia Place apartment complex, which currently is split between the city and unincorporated Alachua County, and the Rustlewood subdivision, said Lila Stewart, Gainesville’s senior strategic planning manager.

The southern area targeted for annexation is generally bounded by Northwest 43rd Street to the east, Northwest 63rd Street to the west, Northwest 39th Avenue to the north and Northwest 23rd Avenue to the south.

Months back, city officials mulled scheduling an annexation referendum for these areas on the Nov. 6 general election day along with the referendum for voting Precinct 40 that was defeated with more than 90 percent opposition.

But the Supervisor of Elections Office did not want multiple ballots in a single voting precinct on general election day. The proposed ordinance that goes to a first reading today would schedule the annexation referendums on April 9.

Because the two areas of Precinct 22 in unincorporated county are separate, it is possible that voters in one area may decide to annex while the other may remain unincorporated.

During a mid-October meeting, some city commissioners noted the organized opposition to the annexation effort for Precinct 40, the measure soundly defeated last week, and said the city should change strategies for future annexation attempts by surveying residents in the area and beginning outreach efforts before scheduling a referendum.

That apparently will not be the plan for the two areas of Precinct 22.

“We’ve had this one planned for some time so I believe the thought is we would go through with those we have had planned,” Mayor Craig Lowe said.

Commissioner Susan Bottcher, the City Commission’s point person on the recent round of annexation efforts, said the areas now eyed for annexation are “completely different” than the large homesteads that made up much of Precinct 40.

Bottcher felt the city’s larger code enforcement staff and its mosquito spraying program might be a draw for voters in the areas of Precinct 22.

If the ordinance to schedule an annexation referendum is approved on a first reading today, it is expected to come back for a second and final vote on Dec. 6, Stewart said.

Redistricting

Also Thursday, commissioners are scheduled to have the first of two votes on an ordinance to establish new boundaries for the City Commission’s four single-member districts.

At this point, there are some concerns from the local NAACP branch and others that the current redistricting plan may jeopardize the status of District 1 as a minority access district.

University of Florida political science professor Kenneth Wald, the city’s longtime redistricting consultant, has been adamant that the plan in the ordinance has the strongest chance of maintaining that status.

In an email to commissioners, City Attorney Nicolle Shalley addressed a slew of questions she had received — including whether the process could be delayed until 2013 or after the March city elections.

Shalley responded that the city charter requires that redistricting finish by the end of 2012. She also noted that going through with the March election with the current districts in place could open a legal challenge because of significant population disparities between some districts.

The annexation and redistricting issues are both scheduled for the evening session, which typically begins shortly before 6 p.m.

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