“A slap in the face”: City Commission eliminates single-family zoning on 4-3 vote

City Commissioner Desmon Duncan-Walker explains why she is voting against the ordinances


GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The Gainesville City Commission voted 4-3 to eliminate single-family zoning in the city limits, even though 47 out of 55 members of the public spoke against the change.

Vote for adoption of the agenda foreshadowed final vote

The direction the meeting would take was evident from the opening seconds, when Commissioner Harvey Ward said that almost everyone who is running for City Commission and for Mayor has committed to repealing the ordinances; he advocated for replacing the agenda items with a continuation to the second meeting in January, when a new City Commission will be on the dais. He added, “The amount of staff effort and resources that will be put into this, if we pass it today–to then turn around and walk it back the other direction, it is enormous, and I would rather see us not do this.”

Commissioner Cynthia Chestnut agreed, saying, “We are in serious financial straits… We don’t have the funds to invest in what this is going to cost us going forward. And everyone but one person running for office, to be seated in January, has said that they would vote to reverse this. I think we owe it to the taxpayers to give them a fair hearing in January.”

Commissioner Desmon Duncan-Walker also agreed, saying, “I heard someone once say that grand sweeping decisions like this need to be made with a scalpel and not a sledgehammer. I think this is somewhat of a sledgehammer approach.” She said she hoped Ward would put that motion on the floor at the appropriate time.

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Commissioner Adrian Hayes-Santos said they should move forward, adding, “I ran for office to make our city a more affordable place and for future generations and to fight climate change. This ordinance does all that.”

Mayor Lauren Poe also favored moving forward, saying, “If a future commission decides to change course, that is their prerogative… This is something that is incredibly important, and needs to be voted on, one way or the other, and that’s the prerogative of each of the seven of us and what we were elected to do.”

The motion to adopt the agenda passed, 4-3, with Chestnut, Duncan-Walker, and Ward in dissent.

Public comment

There was a brief presentation by staff, then the meeting moved to public comment. None of the agenda items were read into the record, and the public was told that there would be one public comment period for all three ordinances, with each member of the public getting 3 minutes to speak.

During public comment, Jane Burman-Holtom said that four of the commissioners – Ward, Hayes-Santos, Saco, and Poe – own properties that have “run-with-the-land deeds that most of us would kill to have” that have restrictions limiting them to single-family houses. She asked them to recuse themselves from voting on the ordinances because their properties are protected from the development that will be permitted under the proposed ordinances.

Casey Fitzgerald, President of Gainesville Neighborhood Voices, Inc., said that if the ordinances passed, the group would file an administrative appeal: “The silver lining… for concerned citizens is that these legal challenges will keep the ordinances in abeyance until a new set of commissioners is seated in January… Unfortunately, an even worse scenario is that if the reversal process and legal appeals are still pending until the legislative session begins in March, the legislature will likely pass preemptive legislation that will not only affect Gainesville but could even apply statewide. I’m sure we all agree that control of zoning issues should remain local, and preemptive state mandates are the last thing we need in Gainesville and the rest of Florida’s communities.”

City Commission Candidate Dejeon Cain called out the commission for having “the nerve to use racism in this… A lot of you have sold your soul to the devil… We should never get to the point where we don’t listen to the constituents… I can’t wait until November 8th. I can’t wait to work for the people. I can’t wait to reverse this thing. I can’t wait to have compassion! I can’t wait to listen to them! I can’t wait to do what’s right!”

Gary Gordon said the “gang of four’s” defense of the proposal “is really worse than the Gators on Saturday. It’s a terrible defense… I want to thank you for creating a teaching moment for the rest of us in this city who are paying attention, a teaching moment about the use of raw power… You are supposedly Progressive Democrats, and supposedly Progressive Democrats don’t resort to raw power; they resort to the will of the people. Clearly, that’s not the case here… You are the champions of raw power.”

Carrie Parker-Warren, who lives in Azalea Trails, said the commission “is willing to sacrifice us for your little egos, and we don’t like that.”

Several commenters mentioned the biomass plant as a previous City Commission decision that was opposed at the time and has remained unpopular.

Of the eight people who spoke in favor of the ordinances, almost all were young men, some of whom identified themselves as students; most said they were renters. Several said they represented the organization “Gainesville is for people,” which is a chapter of YIMBY Action, a 501(c)4 organization.

Commission discussion

During commission discussion, Commissioner Reina Saco responded to an earlier accusation from Robert Mounts that she had thrown away a print-out of his comments that he had provided to commissioners. She said she still had that piece of paper, but she had thrown away the deed restrictions to her property “because I already have one… and I don’t need veiled remarks or threats saying, ‘I know where you live.’ My home is public record; I don’t need someone coming here, telling me where I live and how to find me.”

She said she loves her neighborhood, but she thinks “so many people could live here” if there weren’t restrictions; “there is such a waste of space.” She said that the lots are covered with grass except for the house itself, “and that doesn’t help anyone, doesn’t help our planet. It’s over-watered, it’s over-fertilized, and it’s manicured every day, so it’s not actually helping anyone, in any way, shape, or form.”

Saco said she was “voting for people to have the opportunity to have families, I’m not voting to take away your home, I’m not voting to bulldoze your home… If your neighbor sells their land and somebody wants to bulldoze that house… and build something bigger and better that can benefit the community a lot better than a thousand square feet of not-at-all-efficient housing into something that shelters multiple people, I consider that a job well done.”

She made a motion to adopt the ordinances without the 5-year sunset provision that she had asked for in the meeting at which they adopted the ordinances on first reading.

Hayes-Santos addressed the deed restriction issue: “I don’t own that property. I’ve never owned that property.” We spoke to him after the meeting, and he clarified that he does not own the property that is described on the deed restriction provided by members of the public; he does own the property that he listed as his residence when running for office. There are three residences on his property, a single-family home and a duplex.

Poe then ruled the motion out of order because the agenda item hadn’t been read into the record. So the Clerk read the agenda item, and Saco made her motion again.

Ward said it was apparent that the community doesn’t want this, “and I think that we will end up regretting it.”

Poe said he was “more convinced than I have ever been that this is the right policy, it is the right thing to do for our community, and it will absolutely open up opportunity for people who right now do not have it.”

Duncan-Walker said the new commission will have to deal with the fall-out from this and that they should have left the decision to the new commission.

Chestnut said, “This is a very sad day for East Gainesville, and the reason is… you have opened the floodgates for gentrification… You say that you’re doing it all for affordable housing for us? No–no, sir. No, ma’am, you’re not… The only place that there is available land to develop happens to be in East Gainesville, and now you want to take that… from these hard-working black people who have worked all their lives to get a house so that they can pass that on to their children, and you have the audacity to sit here and take that from us!”

She continued, “I will work day and night in January to get this reversed… The mistake [this commission] made was in not listening to the people. You never asked the people… in East Gainesville… how can we help you?… Now they’re trying to do the same thing in rushing through inclusionary zoning. Get on the bandwagon, follow it, look, because we cannot have the same thing happen again. We cannot. But for black people in this community, this is a sad day. It’s a slap in the face.”

All three ordinances passed on a 4-3 vote, with Chestnut, Duncan-Walker, and Ward in dissent.

  • Knowing the vast majority of us citizens do not want this, these holier-than-thou radicals who believe “rules are for thee, but not for me” have repeatedly betrayed those they represent (are supposed to anyway). If so many more people could enjoy these properties they live on start inviting those from the vast homeless camps or border crossers to share with you. Why not, are you hypocrites? Sure they are, lying thieves too I guess. Makes me wonder what they will be receiving for their vote? especially the 2 (or 3 hopefully) leaving office soon: Poe, Fake Minority Hyphen-Santos-Hayes, and soon to be voted out Six-Gun Ward. Being for something this large, with a very narrow vote majority, that also has tremendous opposite is a huge red flag for hidden incentives for their votes. Don’t ignore these red flags, investigate those in favor of this! Corruption may run deep, starting just below the surface!

      • Hit the nail on the head little lyn! That’s exactly what happened! And, we never did find out what some of those folks (city comm, GRU, GRU attorneys, etc.) walked away with.

      • And Mr Poe voted for that one along with his mentor Queen Peking (one of the lucky ones to be getting large credits every from GRU for the feed in tariff where they get paid many time the rate that you pay for electricity).

        • Don’t forget that most of the people who got FIT contracts were friends of the Queen or foreign entities with deep pockets.

  • Open the floodgates and let’s turn Gainesville into a ghetto.

    You have a four bedroom home? Live in one and rent out the other three. Then rent the garage and the storage building out back! That’s five extra tenets with five extra cars on the street. Wow, what a great idea! Like the student ghetto?
    And forget the manicured lawn.
    It’s better for the planet if we just let the weeds grow!
    Bad news for anyone who has any pride in home ownership.

    There’s something fishy here! Follow the money!

  • Open your eyes voters of Gainesville And Alachua County this is what happens when you have a democratic run city or country they don’t listen to the voters they do as they please it’s time to change this in the next two elections you could change this vote the idiots off that will not listen to the very people who put them their

  • This is what you end up with when you allow our local non resident population to vote in our elections. this is the What you end up with a save the planet not our local permanent resonant population..

  • On a positive note, at least the liberal lunatics who voted for the idiots and probably will in the upcoming election(s), will have feminine products placed strategically around the city. Should give them temporary relief until the next idiot meeting.

  • This “slap in the face” vote will be forgotten before the upcoming election by the liberal lemmings.

    At least until the liberals go into a public bathroom and get slapped in the face with a reality tampon.

    How well are those elected officials actually representing you?

  • Shame shame, this city is run by incompetence. Used to be a great place but has been circling the drain for a while.

  • Czar Poe and Minions carrying out Lets Go Bandons Manifesto. Just like Portland, Seattle, New York, Ect. Fat Harvey’s bogus no vote was planned. If Gville voteshim in again they deserve more deranged leadership they keep voting for. Gru will not be bailed out, they will be gone along with the Cash Cow Poes Biomass destroyed.

  • Harvey Ward just sat there like a fat oaf and didn’t even try to convince anyone to change their vote.

    • Of course he didn’t. He’s definitely for it (already has his SF dwelling) but was allowed to vote note for runoff election purposes. Another example of their plotting and scheming to deceive the public!

  • I hope Chestnut follows thru on promise for new commission in January. If the state doesn’t block it first.
    It’s completely unnecessary because we already have new codes to increase density in the city limits, we can see it happening. They legalized ADU granny suites, too. The eastside has allowed duplexes whereas the rest of the city didn’t. There’s 150 more vacant lots, too.
    The city’s own Heartwood subdivision is blossoming new single family homes like mushrooms, proving there’s still a demand for SFR families.
    Plus, the costly infrastructure upgrades needed for high density must be paid for by somebody — the new residents via developers and mega landlords, causing high rents again.
    The same pattern will continue, not improve affordability. The cheapest housing will STILL be older homes and apts. miles away from UF.
    The ONLY answer is deliberately plan and build low cost owner-occupied efficiency condos, not more rentals.

  • Come on, the grass and space around the existing houses does no good? How about allowing rainwater runoff to percolate back into the soil so there is less risk of flooding.

  • Section 8 housing soon coming to a neighborhood near you! With all the ‘amenities’that only hoodrats can offer.

  • I attended this entire meeting. I can only say that I was shaken afterwards. Not because of the outcome of the vote. I knew what that would be. But because of the overwhelming sense of darkness and, yes, evil that permeated from the four commissioners. Looking at them I felt a deep sense of foreboding emanating. It was surreal. Given every bit of facts, logic, humanity, financial impact, historic information, anger, sadness and disbelief from those attending, their eyes all had a dark void. I am not exaggerating. When something like this just doesn’t make sense then you have to look deeper. I truly felt that there were other forces, seen and unseen, orchestrating this.

    • God works in mysterious ways but the devil is in the details. They will get what they sow.

    • A lot of trans culture seems to be Satanic. You don’t have to look too hard online to figure that out. And a lot of Satanists are into children. Antifa is all of the above. They are Poe’s seven percent who elected him. If this will allow pedophiles to move anywhere, that would make perfect sense. Every neighborhood could use a low-rent, drug-addicted drag queen to entertain the children after school, right? It’s easier for demons to influence people who aren’t right in the head in the first place.

  • The group that loudly claims they represent diversity – in effect – have only represented their elitist status – decade in and decade out. I am not saying the GOP has the answers – our in power Democrats do not even have the questions,

    • We’ve got our own fat little deranged dictator, Kim Jong Poe. “He knows better than everybody else, even all the experts!” ROFL as we used to say.

  • What is this legal ad I’ve been saying regarding sexual offenders? If sex offenders are not allowed in single family zoning areas and now single family zoning has been done away with, will sex offenders be allowed everywhere?

  • When did so called progressive decide that developing every square inch of Gainesville and getting rid of all the trees and grass is good for the environment? I guess that went out the window when they decided burning trees doesn’t emit CO2.

  • Yep , the mask on Poes Puppet Harvey Ward says it all. He is same ole same old broken Gville.

  • The city commission is making the county commission look like the adults in the room. That’s a hell of an achievement.

  • Saco was the only honest pro voter, at least. She actually said she prefers more people over all those beautiful trees in our neighborhoods. Textbook 3rd world refugee who hasn’t learned since coming here. We do NOT want to burn our trees for energy like Haiti and Africa did, no thank you 😡👹

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