Gainesville City Commission votes to end single-family zoning

Published: Oct. 17, 2022 at 11:56 PM EDT
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - Gainesville residents can say goodbye to any hopes the city commission would keep single-family zoning.

In a meeting today, the commission voted 4-3 to end single-family zoning, with commissioners Harvey Ward, Desmon Duncan-Walker, and Cynthia Chestnut in dissent.

Many residents feel this move will change the character and make-up of many historic neighborhoods, like Azalea Trails and Lincoln Estates.

This change will allow developers to build multi-family homes, as large as four units per building, on land that was previously zoned only for single-family homes.

Commissioners who voted in favor of it, believe it will expand access to affordable housing.

“We only have 194 vacant parcels in single family neighborhoods, that’s it,” said Commissioner Adrian Hayes-Santos. “That’s 63% of our city that’s residential, and we only have 194 acre parcels. 6,000 people moved to our area last year and these issues are only going to continue to increase as more people move here.”

Commissioner Reina Saco said she feels there’s a misconception that this ordinance will change or get rid of people’s existing homes.

She told residents that is not the case, but that this ordinance will allow more unused land to go to use.

Many people who spoke during public comment said they feel the commissioners who voted in favor of this, think they know what’s best for those who live in affected communities.

“It’s always amazing to me how white people choose to speak for the African American community and to tell them about equity and what they need… I reject the idea that this issue has anything to do with partisan politics,” said Robert Mounts, president of the University Park Neighborhood Association.

Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe began addressing the public comment by saying how grateful he is for the Gainesville community, despite the pushback he’s received.

“I believe that every family should have the opportunity to choose where they want to live in Gainesville and it shouldn’t be restricted to one place in town,” said Poe. “I worked my hardest my six years in office to try to make that happen.”

RELATED STORY: Attorney says Gainesville City Commission could face legal challenges over possible zoning changes

Several residents said they’re concerned about the lawsuits this vote could lead to.

“Your actions will be overturned, but at great cost to the city,” Bruce Morgan, resident, said to the city commission. “There is going to be lawsuit, after lawsuit, after lawsuit… the first thing on the chopping block, after the city goes bankrupt, will be your Stalinist policies.”

Some candidates running for city commission seats, said if elected, they plan to propose an ordinance that will overturn this decision.

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