Newberry moves forward with Agri-Tech Park, selects members for charter school board

City of Newberry Principal Planner Jean-Paul Perez speaks to the Newberry City Commission on June 10


NEWBERRY, Fla. – At their June 10 Regular Meeting, the Newberry City Commission received a feasibility study and business plan for the Agri-Tech Park, passed a six-month stay on new development for big-box stores, selected members for the charter school governing board, and granted a Special Use permit for the upcoming Vibes on the Lawn Car & Bike Show.

Recognition of Pastor Mike Tyson as “Hall of Fame Barber”

Mayor Jordan Marlowe began the meeting by recognizing Pastor Mike Tyson as Newberry’s “Hall of Fame Barber” and candidate for the National Barber Hall of Fame. Group photos were taken with many of his longtime customers.

AgFoodTech Business Incubator feasibility study

Kamal Latham of GBM Global Solutions introduced a feasibility study and business plan for the upcoming AgFoodTech Business Incubator (sometimes called Agri-Tech Park or Ag-Tech Park), a research and innovation partnership with UF and other stakeholders. Latham said Duke Energy contributed $20,000 for the feasibility study in 2022, the USDA awarded the City a grant of $55,000 for the business plan, and the City contributed additional funds. Latham said Axcel Innovation was retained to provide the feasibility study and business plan. Latham mentioned all of the biotech businesses thriving in the City of Alachua and said that with the Agri-Tech assets in the area, Newberry has the potential to outpace Alachua’s recent track record of many new start-ups.

Gary Evans of Axcel Innovation took over the presentation and said his company has been working on incubators similar to this one for many decades. Evans said, “The sole purpose of having an incubator is to help people create companies, and those companies are going to create jobs, and that creates all the benefits for the community… That’s what the whole thing is about.”

Evans said the feasibility study answers the questions, “Could this thing meet the stated objective or not? What would be the potential market? And what resources would be required to make it happen?” 

Evans continued, “To cut to the chase, we do believe that the incubator is feasible for a whole bunch of reasons… – very strong support from people within the region from Newberry, but also from within the wider county. It’s a perfect fit with the city’s agricultural history… We see a key part of it is actually connecting with the local farming community and helping give them access to all this new technology that’s being developed. Also, proximity to University of Florida and to the IFAS Extension Office is a real asset… UF is ranked number one for agricultural research in the country, which again is a real unique asset to have because the more research they do, the more things get patented, the more opportunities there are to start businesses.”

Evans said there are clear sources of potential clients, including those at UF/IFAS, entrepreneurs, and start-up companies. He said the incubator will need specialized facilities, including meeting rooms, labs, and greenhouses, and specialist support services and staff will be required (technical, legal, financial, industry connections, etc.).

Evans showed the following slide featuring aspects of the business plan:

AgFoodTech Business Incubator vision and mission

Evans said they will need to form a governing board and a 501(c)(3) entity, and the four-person staff will consist of an Executive Director, Client Support Manager, Technical Support Manager, and Administrator; the initial cost of the ~25,000-square-foot facility will be approximately $14 million. He said the design of the building will permit easy expansion when the need arises in the future. Evans said the operating costs will total about $800,000 annually or slightly less, and he noted that most people starting businesses do not have much extra money, which is why the incubator and its facilities are so useful.

Mayor Marlowe said, “We appreciate the presentation. This is a huge milestone in this epic journey that we’ve been on for six years at this point, from idea.”

Fire Assessment Fee

Commissioners heard an update from staff on the ongoing Fire Assessment Fee calculations for this year, which will be discussed in more detail in July. 

Six-month pause on big-box stores

The next item was the second reading of an ordinance establishing a six-month zoning-in-progress for construction of large-scale retail establishments greater than 80,000 square feet and providing a stay/hold on large-scale building applications for six months, to allow the City more time to finalize the details of their Big-Box Ordinance.

Principal Planner Jean-Paul Perez said staff will return in late summer or autumn with more information, and he said staff recommended approving the zoning-in-progress ordinance on second reading.

Commissioner Tim Marden suggested that the ordinance should automatically renew for another six months if the Big-Box Ordinance hasn’t been adopted by December 10, when it expires. Marden made a motion to pass the ordinance including the provision to renew automatically, and Commissioner Tony Mazon seconded the motion. It passed unanimously.

Newberry Charter School board

City Manager Mike New gave an update on the Newberry Charter School’s progress, as he plans to do at every meeting. He said he had two items to discuss: selecting members for the charter school governing board and hiring outside legal help for the charter application process.

Mayor Marlowe reminded everyone that any money spent by the City would be recouped from the charter school’s revenue stream once it secures funding. New clarified that it will probably take three to five years for the school to repay the money.

New said the City had received applications for the charter school governing board from EFN (Education First for Newberry), and no other applications had been submitted, aside from the one board member to be selected by teachers. 

EFN recommended Chelsea Leming for board chair, a non-voting position.

Board members nominated by EFN were David Danne, Leslie McGehee, Leslie Hayes-Morrison, and Shari Jones. Veronica Kadala was nominated for the board by the Newberry Elementary teachers. David Essex was nominated as ESE (Exceptional Student Education) Task Force Captain by EFN.

Referring to EFN and the parents, Marlowe said, “Once again, you guys have done the legwork. You guys have been out there seeing what the next steps are and seeing how you can help. So I appreciate it. My level of respect for the work that you guys have done to get us to this point just continues to grow.”

Commissioner Mazon made a motion to appoint all the applicants to the board, and Commissioner Clark seconded the motion. It passed unanimously. 

Outside legal counsel to complete the charter school application

New said outside legal help was needed to complete the charter school application process, and that cost would not exceed $120,000 total. New itemized the costs: the City Attorney would charge up to $10,000 for the extra work involved, the Arnold Law Firm (which has the needed expertise) would charge a maximum of $100,000, and the School Financial Services firm would charge a maximum of $10,000 to do two or three specialized tasks.

Commissioner Clark made a motion to authorize the hiring of the additional legal services, and Commissioner Marden seconded the motion. It passed unanimously.

Special Permit for Vibes on the Lawn Car & Bike Show

Perez introduced a resolution to approve an application for a Special Permit for Temporary Use and Alcohol Service for the Vibes on the Lawn Car & Bike Show, to be held on June 22 from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. at 28223 and 28957 Newberry Road (Post Farm).

Perez said alcohol would not be sold at the event, but a permit is necessary for alcohol consumption, and the land is zoned Agricultural, which requires a permit for that type of event. He said staff recommended approving the permit for the concert and alcohol service with some conditions.

Perez said the Planning and Zoning Board had recommended the following conditions: name the City as an additional insured on the insurance policy, have a first aid tent, have message boards to alert cars on Newberry Road about extra traffic congestion, and have adequate lighting.

Additional conditions recommended by staff were: at least two Alachua County Sheriff’s Office deputies for traffic control at the beginning of the event and four deputies at the end; no alcohol sales; a limit of 2,000 attendees (which may be adjusted); assembly-style tents and stages must be inspected; a security plan must be coordinated with the Sheriff’s Office; and proof of liability insurance must be provided.

Commissioner Mazon made a motion to approve the resolution with the recommended conditions, and Clark seconded the motion. It passed unanimously.

The concert organizer clarified that firearms and weapons will not be permitted inside the event, unless someone is in possession of a Concealed Carry License.

Mayor Marlowe said, “Go have a great event and a great time.” 

  • $110,000 cash out already for the charter school. First appropriation of many. I predict this school bleeds Newberry cash dry until they beg the school board to take the school back. They have no clue what an expensive undertaking they grabbed onto. And same folks want Springs County. LOL

  • >