Biomass, game-day parking, homeless center and chickens on Thursday's agenda


The woodyard of the Gainesville Renewable Energy Center. City commissioners are expected to decide the city's next step regarding GREC.

Doug Finger/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Wednesday, September 4, 2013 at 3:45 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, September 4, 2013 at 3:45 p.m.

Keeping with recent history, Thursday's City Commission meeting looks like a lengthy one that will stretch deep into the evening.

The biomass plant, football game-day parking rules, the long-planned homeless center, the Koppers Superfund site and the number of chickens that may be kept at a residential home are just a handful of the items scheduled to go to the commission.

Biomass plant

Now that the Gainesville Renewable Energy Center has dropped its arbitration counterclaim over a contract dispute, city commissioners are expected to decide the city's next step Thursday afternoon.

City Attorney Nicolle Shalley detailed some options in a Tuesday email to commissioners. With GREC attempting to draw in tax equity investors or sell the plant outright, the city could exercise its contractual right to make an offer to purchase the plant during a 60-day window that will close on Oct. 22.

As another option, the commission could voluntarily grant the two contractual changes that GREC has requested to make the sale of the plant go more smoothly.

GREC has asked the city to waive for 120 days its contractual right of first offer before the company may sell the plant. GREC also asked the city to waive for that same 120-day span its approval authority over the sale of all interests in the plant as long as the purchaser is among the 10 largest utilities in the country or an affiliate of one.

If the city agrees to those changes, GREC has offered to pay the city's legal fees for arbitration, which exceed at least $1.2 million. In her memo to the City Commission, Shalley wrote that the city could make a counteroffer if it “believes GREC is not offering adequate consideration for the rights it is asking the city to give up.”

The commission could also do nothing. That would open up a 360-day window for GREC to sell the plant, with the city maintaining its authority to review and approve or reject a deal based on criteria such as the potential new owner's “financial strength and experience” in utilities, Shalley wrote.

UF home-game parking

Thursday evening, the City Commission is scheduled to have a final vote on tougher game-day parking rules for residential areas near the University of Florida campus. The rules would apply to properties where homeowners or tenants charge money for game-day yard parking. They would not be enforced until next season.

The stricter rules would:

* Require a special events permit for yard parking on game days instead of the business license currently required. The cost remains $52.50 a season.

* Allow parking from 8.a.m. to midnight or three hours after the end of the game, whichever is later. After that, vehicles may remain parked overnight but cannot be accessed or occupied.

* Require that all trash and signs be picked up by 6 p.m. the day after the game.

* Require any portable toilets be removed by 6 p.m. on the second day after a game. The toilets could not be placed on site until the day before a game.

* Limit signs advertising parking to one on-site sign no more than six square feet in size.

* Limit the parking area to private property.

* Require signed authorization of a property owner for the city to issue a permit.

Failure to comply with the rules would be a code enforcement violation with a $250 fine.

On Aug. 15, commissioners gave initial approval to the stricter rules in a 4-2 vote, with Mayor Ed Braddy and Todd Chase in dissent and Yvonne Hinson-Rawls absent.

Homeless center

Commissioners are also expected to decide whether to spend a projected $200,000 to acquire the remainder of the shuttered Gainesville Correctional Institution on Northeast 39th Avenue for a long-planned, but unbuilt homeless shelter and assistance center.

The city and the state already have an agreement for the city to purchase 28 acres of the property for $700,000. The remainder was supposed to be part of a land swap, with the state getting a former law office north of City Hall on Northeast First Street. That deal fell through when on Aug. 22 the Plan Board voted down an application for the state to use the building near City Hall as a probation office

Dozens of residents of the Historic Duck Pond Neighborhood turned out to oppose the plan to move the probation office there from its current location a few blocks to the south in downtown.

Koppers

Thursday afternoon, a representative of Beazer East Inc., the company legally responsible for the cleanup of the contamination at the Koppers Superfund site and polluted off-site soils, will update commissioners on the progress.

Located north of Northwest 23rd Avenue and west of North Main Street, the former wood treatment plant property has been on the federal Superfund list for three decades. The cleanup plan that Beazer East and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have agreed upon would remove contaminated soils from adjacent properties and areas of the Koppers site and store them in a capped underground containment area surrounded by a slurry wall. The plan has sparked continued opposition from some in the community because it does not include the purchase of nearby homes to relocate residents.

Residential chickens

A proposal to increase the number of chickens that urban farmers may keep at residential properties goes to the commission for a first vote on Thursday. City law currently limits a homeowner to two chickens — hens, but no roosters — in most residential zoning districts.

Local groups like the Gainesville Friends of Hens and Backyard Chickens Gainesville have pushed for an increase. In late July, the Plan Board recommended allowing up to 10 chickens at single-family residential properties, which was above the six that staff had recommended.

Citing concerns with noise, odor and public health, staff now has a revised alternative recommendation to allow up to six chickens at lots of 10,000 square or less and up to 10 chickens at lots larger than that.

Neither recommendation allows roosters.

If the City Commission votes in favor of an increase to the size of neighborhood flocks, an ordinance would still have to come back for two future votes to finalize the changes.

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