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City commission adds a Development Review Board, schedules affordable housing workshops, approves the next phase of work on improvements to University Avenue and 13th Street

Mayor Lauren Poe tells the audience that “this vilification of people… has got to stop” after commenters criticized recent housing developments on 13th Street

BY JENNIFER CABRERA

At their April 7 meeting, the Gainesville City Commission moved forward with a change to their Land Development Code, approved a schedule for affordable housing workshops that will precede a Plan Board discussion on inclusionary/exclusionary zoning, and approved the next step in improvements to University Avenue and 13th Street.

Change to Land Development Code adds a Development Review Board

The proposed change to the Land Development Code adds a citizen Development Review Board to the approval process for certain new developments; the ordinance was previously considered in February, but the commission had concerns and asked for changes in neighborhood workshop requirements, levels of development review (rapid, intermediate, major), review procedures for development plans, and approval procedures for development plans. 

The proposed changes require a posted notice at a property for which a workshop is to be held, a neighborhood workshop, and a Public Participation Report, among other changes to the existing neighborhood workshop requirements. 

The ordinance changes the Land Development code so that site plans for residential developments with greater than 50 units will not be reviewed and approved by City staff but instead will be reviewed and approved by a volunteer citizen board, the Development Review Board. The proposed ordinance specified that developments with 100% of units reserved for household at 80% AMI (Area Median Income), regardless of size, would be exempted from the additional review unless the developer is requesting a variance. The new review requirements would also add a new Planner position at the City plus additional public notice costs, and staff noted that the changes would increase the review time for all projects.

The staff report points out that because site plan review is the last step of the development review process, the reviewing authority, whether City staff or an advisory board, has “the least discretion as to whether any site plan must be approved or denied.” If the site plan meets “the voluminous prescribed regulations,” then “that site plan must be approved – again regardless of reviewing authority – even if the site plan turns out to be seemingly unpopular or has generated significant opposition by interested neighbors.”

“It goes against recommendations from affordable housing experts… I believe this is a step backwards.” – Commissioner Adrian Hayes-Santos

Commissioner Adrian Hayes-Santos was concerned that the ordinance would add $100,000 in recurring expenses to the City’s budget for the new Planner position, make housing more expensive, and delay the construction of new housing: “It goes against recommendations from affordable housing experts… I believe this is a step backwards.” He suggested allowing exemptions from review for affordable housing projects with 15-20% of units designated as affordable.

“If we had put Royal Park, for example, through this process, it would have still gone through. Nothing would have changed except that it cost more money to provide that workforce housing that they’re trying to do.” – Commissioner Reina Saco

Commissioner Reina Saco was concerned that adding in more review “promotes a false expectation to our neighbors of, well, we can go to this board, and they’ll stop the process. If we had put Royal Park, for example, through this process, it would have still gone through. Nothing would have changed except that it cost more money to provide that workforce housing that they’re trying to do.” She also supported reducing the affordable housing threshold to 15-20%. 

Mayor Lauren Poe said he liked the notification process and neighborhood workshop elements in the ordinance, but he thought that adding a Development Review Board for a development with 51 or more units would be “a step in the wrong direction.”

Saco made a motion to move forward with the ordinance without the provision requiring review by the Development Review Board of any residential projects over 50 units. 

“We’ve had five years, almost, under the Comprehensive Plan and the Land Development Code. We’ve seen the canyons going up on 13th Street, we’ve seen people try and fail to stop Seminary Lane… We’re sick and tired of it.” – Robert Mounts

During public comment on the motion, Robert Mounts said the ordinance was “the most determined defense of by-right development I have seen yet… We’ve had five years almost under the Comprehensive Plan and the Land Development Code. We’ve seen the canyons going up on 13th Street, we’ve seen people try and fail to stop Seminary Lane… We’re sick and tired of it.”

“Those developments that have gone up are not buildings; they’re homes for people. They live there. They’re a part of our community. They should be welcomed. They should be celebrated. This vilification of housing, this vilification of people, our neighbors, in our community, has got to stop. Has got to stop.” – Mayor Lauren Poe

Following public comment, Poe angrily responded, “Those developments that have gone up are not buildings; they’re homes for people. They live there. They’re a part of our community. They should be welcomed. They should be celebrated. This vilification of housing, this vilification of people, our neighbors, in our community, has got to stop. Has got to stop.” He said the ordinance would significantly improve engagement on the front end of development.

The motion failed 3-4, with only Poe, Hayes-Santos, and Saco voting for it. 

Commissioner David Arreola made a motion to move forward with the ordinance except with the change that developments with 15% of units designated as “affordable” would be exempt from review by the Development Review Board. That motion passed, 4-3, with Hayes-Santos, Poe, and Commissioner Desmon Duncan-Walker in dissent.

The ordinance will have two more hearings.

Affordable housing workshops will precede inclusionary/exclusionary zoning discussion

Hayes-Santos also asked to pull an item from the consent agenda that scheduled Affordable Housing Workshop dates for May 17 and June 13. Since the City Plan Board will soon be taking up inclusionary/exclusionary zoning, Hayes-Santos wanted to have the recommendation from the Plan Board before the workshops, so he requested that the Plan Board make a recommendation on the zoning changes at their next meeting (April 28) and move the June workshop earlier. 

Duncan-Walker said she had concerns with asking the Plan Board to make a recommendation before the City Manager could complete the affordable housing workshops. She said community members had asked her for even more workshops than the two that are scheduled. She also asked Hayes-Santos to elaborate on the zoning items before the Plan Board.

Hayes-Santos said he thought a recommendation from the Plan Board on inclusionary/exclusionary zoning would provide something “concrete” that members of the public could discuss; the commission could then “consolidate all that feedback into our discussion… Every month we delay these decisions… it’s increasing the number of people that won’t have housing.”

Interim City Manager Cynthia Curry said the workshops were scheduled following a city commission request from the March 17 meeting. Her opinion was that asking the Plan Board to make a recommendation either before or during the workshop process would be “disjointed.” She said she would prefer to have the workshops feed into the Plan Board process.

Hayes-Santos made a motion to schedule two or more workshops in early-to-mid May to discuss housing issues and ask the Plan Board to delay the inclusionary/exclusionary zoning discussion to their meeting in late May. Then the city commission would take up the zoning ordinance in June. Poe said the workshop would be “for the public – the commission can join and sort of listen and observe. [The workshops are] for all of our neighbors and staff to receive information and share thoughts and ideas and bring all those back to us in an organized form.”

The motion passed unanimously.

Related: Tana Silva writes that commissioners are racing to implement “inclusionary zoning” before their terms expire

University and 13th

The commission heard a presentation about proposed design changes to University Avenue (from NW 34th Street to SE 31st Street) and 13th Street (from SW 16th Avenue to NW 8th Avenue). 

The recommendations included:

  • Changing the roadway from four lanes to two lanes with a westbound bike lane and eastbound 2-way cycle track on University Avenue between NE 3rd Street and SE 31st Street.
  • Adding painted bike lanes and more pedestrian crossings on University Avenue between NW 34th Street and NW 22nd Street, along with possibly changing from three traffic lanes (two in one direction, one in the other) to one lane in each direction with a center turn lane.
  • Adding a raised median with narrowed lanes and protected bike lanes on SW 13th Street between SW Archer Road and SW 16th Avenue.

In the short term, the consultant recommended restriping to makes lanes narrower and painting bike lanes green on East University Avenue, green-painted bike lanes and “spot medians” on West University Avenue, and green-painted bike lanes and a physical barrier between vehicle and bike lanes on SW 13th Street.

“I’m telling you, I drive that corridor a couple of times a day, and it’s the exception when I don’t see someone mounting the curve and parked on the sidewalk, in the bike lane, right in front of our police station. It sends a terrible message. We have a lot of priorities, but it drives me crazy.” – Mayor Lauren Poe

Saco made a motion to approve the proposed design alternatives and move forward to the PD&E (Project Development and Environment) phase and ask the Interim City Manager to produce a memo regarding ways to enforce restrictions on parking on sidewalks and bike lanes. Poe chimed in, “Especially in front of the police station. I’m telling you, I drive that corridor a couple of times a day, and it’s the exception when I don’t see someone mounting the curve and parked on the sidewalk, in the bike lane, right in front of our police station. It sends a terrible message. We have a lot of priorities, but it drives me crazy.”

The motion passed unanimously without any discussion of the cost of the next phase.

  • Nobody has anything against the people (students) living in the buildings. Poe is just retarded.

    • That is just a false excuse to show he cares about people. In reality he’s a chubby, self-absorbed failure. He and his failure partner Hayes -Santos (never explains why he uses his step dad’s name to claim minority status) really fear having a separate entity not support the disaster deals they negotiate. Since neither one has a job other than the meager $40,000 City salary. Must be getting side money somewhere. Poe’s bio as of today still says he works teaching HS kids history (while claiming to be an economics professor even thou he has no such degree). Take it for what it is, these two lame ducks are seeing the beginning of the end at City Hall and will never be elected to anything else the rest of their lives. It will take many years to undo the shenanigans and damage they’ve caused. Both should be prosecuted.

    • Actually he’s crazy – he admitted it himself.

  • What’s Poe talking about people parking in front of the
    Police station? Is he talking about police cars? I guarantee you I drive past the police station more than he does and I never see that. The mask has gone to
    His brain.— So these bike lanes…will those electric
    Scooters that people rent and drive like idiots who dump
    Them anywhere, will those electric scooters be zooming
    In those bike lanes? Those electric scooters are very
    Dangerous when it rains or when it’s wet out. What
    We’ll be getting are a bunch of those accidents. Can’t
    The students learn to cross at the crosswalks when the
    Crosswalk light tells them to? How about writing more
    Jaywalking tickets and getting the bums out of the medians. These big buildings they talk about have made streets narrow and parking hard to find…the city
    Makes a lot of revenue writing parking tickets…oh!,
    Enjoy your ride home during rush hour and thank your
    City commissioners for ruining our roads.

    • Bicycles and those electric scooters should have license
      Tags on them and front & rear lights…they should all
      Have to be registered and pay a FEE to help pay for
      The bike lanes in the roads…you want equity, right?

    • People who want to ride bikes downtown just use SW/SE 2nd Avenue. It has nice bike lanes and four way stops that are very safe. You can go across Waldo Rd and take it all the way to around SE 15th Street. On the west side, it is the main entrance to UF. Poe should put down the smoked pork and bbq sauce and go for a bike ride.

  • Ok commissioners, Affordable housing or equity housing? People
    Should be guaranteed section 8 housing in all those buildings at University and 13th, & seminary lane. The city
    Land code ordinance should guarantee 25% of the units to section 8 housing
    (Which is affordable housing) for all new developments.
    In fact, the city landlord ordinance should say landlords must provide section 8 housing in all their
    Units, And rent control: all new developments must
    Have rent control. Rent can only go up with the cost of
    Inflation. And the city’s affordable housing czar gets to
    Pick where the section 8 recipients get placed, not the
    Landlord.

    • LOLOLOLOL they would have much less demand if they told people to leave college towns they can’t find decent jobs and cheap housing in. Problem solved. No more subsidized rentals.

  • Poe,Santos and Saco. Sounds like a good trio for a one way bus ticket out of town. Fix our roads!

  • Hey Poe, the mask is supposed to cover your nose & mouth, not your eyes!…I drive past the corridors all day too…Are you
    Missing the panhandlers in the street medians?

  • There is just no reason for public comments anymore. We can’t fix stupid. Hopefully, we’ll elect some more qualified candidates on the next round.

    • Jimmy, the city comments are right here…they should
      Have to play the AC comments section during citizens
      Comments…there’s a lot of good ideas in this section and they should be listening to all of them…

      • Yeah, bike lanes. Bike riders should be paying for that. And those electric scooters? Ban them. Encourage walking or riding pedal bike to save the planet.

  • Narrowing university Ave to make it safer & adding bike lanes? Pedestrians need to know how to cross at
    A crosswalk. Case solved. That will prevent pedestrian
    Casualties. If that don’t work, nothing will. Bikes & electric scooters should be registered and pay their fair
    Share for their lanes…just call it a user fee. There should have user fee
    To enter the library or go to public school too.

  • Poe is a tubby tyrant. The sooner he goes back to teaching or whatever else he’s qualified for (if anything) the better

    • Poe must be sickly too…always wearing a mask.
      Do they thing they are going into surgery at those city
      Meetings or are their noses turning into little pig noses
      Under those masks. Poe should claim victory over Covid
      So he can say what a great thing he did by ending the
      Pandemic.

      • He’s like the original Star Trek episode when Captain Kirk gets split by the transporter into a strong, aggressive half and a weak, emotional half. Poe is like the weak, emotional Kirk. “Someone got killed on the road! Oh no! (sob sob sob – panic) We have to close down the road!” He doesn’t have the sense to realize that emergency vehicles will have a big problem if there is a lot of traffic and they can’t get out to East Gainesville quickly because everything is single lane and backed up, and more people will be dying all the time. The strong Kirk would realize this, but Boo-Hoo Poe overreacts and can’t think straight. He looks like Pat from the old SNL (like a low testosterone poster child). Being overweight and obviously pale from never going out in the sun probably doesn’t help with this, and of course it affects his thinking. Does he need a doctor?

  • None of this would necessary if leadership were more intelligent. If they used logic instead of emotion, and local priorities instead of national and global agendas the last 15-20 years.

  • Another thing, the staff knows the law. The law is based on the Private Property rights enshrined in the Constitution. These little emotional city leaders and declining Native neighborhood voters can cry all they want. But the property owners have rights. There’s no “neighborhood rights” in the Constitution that could prevent re-development. Plus the staff knows this city needs the tax revenues.

  • Mr. Poe and his egocentric partner Mr. Hayes both have no one but themselves in mind. That’s obvious. To draw attention with over-the-top requirements so they may be swooped up into some radical liberal campaign like when both sought Andrew Gillum’s attention. Imagine how that would have “turned out”. Everyone in the city and on the commission should oppose every single thing with one is for.

  • I noticed that they are ALL ABOUT reducing roads from 4 lanes to two lanes on the east side of town, they wouldn’t enjoy it if someone mandated reduced lanes in their neighborhoods like NEWBERRY ROAD or ARCHER RD because most of your commissioners and mayor all live in NEWBERRY! So as long as they have a decent road screw the rest of gainesville. Not everyone wants to live in the over populated “west of I75” traffic hell, but they just keep funneling all the money, the benefits (tax breaks for the developers) etc to the west. Do they not realize there is a ton of land ripe for development right off SR20 between Gainesville and Hawthorne?
    Whose bright idea is it to reduce lanes as the population soars?! IDIOTS ARE RUNNING THIS CITY.

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