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City commission defers approval of Campus Development Agreement to January 6 because of housing concerns

BY JENNIFER CABRERA

At their December 2 meeting, the Gainesville City Commission voted to defer a decision on the University of Florida Campus Development Plan until their January 6 meeting.

The University of Florida (UF), the City of Gainesville, and Alachua County are parties to a Campus Development Agreement (CDA) for the period 2015-2025. UF is requesting to extend the term through 2030 and incorporate its updated Campus Master Plan for 2020-2030. This meeting was the second hearing of the plan, and staff’s recommendation was to adopt the 2020-2030 UF CDA.

Andrew Persons, Director of Sustainable Development for the City of Gainesville, explained that the process is intended to facilitate communication and coordination between state universities and their host governments. The process is governed by Florida Statutes, but he explained that while housing is part of the Campus Master Plan, it is specifically related to on-campus housing, and the CDA wasn’t set up to address housing issues. Concerns about a lack of affordable housing for students, particularly graduate students, have been voiced by a number of residents, and housing is the sticking point holding up final approval from both the City of Gainesville and Alachua County.

In response to a question from Mayor Lauren Poe, Persons confirmed that “the CDA is very strict in… what it can cover. So housing not being an issue in there… it’s sort of outside of the bounds of the CDA agreement.” Persons said that if the CDA is not confirmed within 180 days (early February), it would go to mediation with the State of Florida.

City Commissioner David Arreola was concerned that an agency under the governor’s office would get to make the final decision if it went to mediation. “That makes me a little uncomfortable, going to that situation… I still remain concerned about the original issue of housing.” Arreola said he had heard that the Board of Trustees had seen a presentation about a proposed solution, but “I don’t know if that solution is good enough… I don’t want to put us into a position where the entirety of the CDA is put into the hands of Ron DeSantis’ government.”

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Commissioner Reina Saco, who attended the meeting remotely because she had cold symptoms, wanted the university to commit to “curbing the cost penalty of [new graduate student housing] from impacting the students and their families… and then I have no problem signing early, before February… I really won’t sign or agree to anything until we have that plan actually ironed out and detailed.”

Poe asked Persons and Interim City Attorney Dan Nee what the City’s defense would be if they did not approve the plan and it went to mediation. After a long silence, Persons said, “Well, that’s a good question… Because housing is not a listed item within statute as something that… is anticipated to be covered in a CDA… we would probably be on not really strong grounds. Frankly speaking, it would be a stretch.” Nee agreed that “it is difficult to see the overlay between housing and… This isn’t on the agreement.”

Poe said that going into mediation wasn’t the way to make progress on affordable housing for graduate students. 

Commissioner Adrian Hayes-Santos said it’s “unfortunate that the State statute… preempts us from having it as part of this conversation.” He was concerned that the university’s plan is to partner with a company that has existing student housing, which would create a “net loss” of housing in the community. Linda Dixon, the university’s Director of Planning, pointed out that student housing is continuously being built. But she said the university’s development plan includes a net increase in housing. She also said that the Board of Trustees is the best venue for discussing topics like housing, not the CDA process.

Commissioner Harvey Ward said he would like the City to work with UF on something like a housing trust for workforce housing, where graduate students would be included in the workforce group. 

Commissioner Desmon Duncan-Walker made a motion to defer the decision “so we can have additional time, and I would also like to see the information” about UF’s plan to add housing. Poe suggested deferring it to the commission’s meeting on February 3. Saco said she’d rather not wait until “the last second,” so she suggested looking at the issue at their January 6 meeting, and Duncan-Walker agreed with that. The motion passed unanimously.

  • I’m sorry to see University Village South taken down. That was my home for my UF student years. It was very convenient to walk out to the bus stop and go to classes and to work. Working on campus was also the best…eventually evolving into 37 years of work.

    The points raised are about providing more off-sets to procuring a UF education. There are ways for a student to do so without requiring an institution to absorb costs.

    And then, don’t be confused about the way college sports operate. UAA is separate from UF. Yet a student is a student. Maybe have the UAA finance graduate and doctoral students with a stipend as well as athletes?

    • One more example of ignorant, failure city commissioners not following city attorney advice and acting like they can control something they have no place in. A waste of time, money and an embarrassment to the city for such ignorant actions. Vote these self absorbed inexperienced losers out asap!

  • Sustainable development? Affordable housing??
    That’s commie jargon. —Anyway, UF doesn’t need any
    Approval from GNV…UF can approve their own stuff…
    UF is “off limits” from city inspection…they’re the State.
    It’s a jurisdiction thing.

  • Even though the commission knows they have no say so in this part, they’ll mess around and delay in order to claim credit for having been part of affordable housing for students that is eventually built. All just optics, nothing that would help anyone but themselves. Need real leaders who actually know from real world (not fake or claimed) experience how to get things done . Not these self centered losers.

  • Shouldn’t it be “lack of housing?”

    Remember, under current leadership gentrification is alive and well in Gainesville, Florida.

    Only the naive and uneducated believe otherwise…

  • City Commission wants you homeless and muzzled and afraid to solve GlobalistRoboticPuzzles

  • Housing is a much broader issue than a college campus, but it’s strange that UF co-sponsored the high rise Continuum apts next to the old First Baptist sanctuary downtown — with an Alabama “non-profit” org — and designated it “for grad students” several years ago…. But anyone know what the rents are, if grad students actually filled the vacancies? It’ll make you wonder, when you find out, hmm. Even if used for non-college renters, who would pay that much to live among gangs, addicts and homeless breaking into your car in the parking garage, too? That’s where housing costs matter, too.

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