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County Commission votes unanimously to ask Gainesville City Commission to reconsider proposal to eliminate single-family housing

Gainesville City Commissioners look on as County Commissioner Ken Cornell makes the motion

BY JENNIFER CABRERA

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – At Monday’s Joint Special Meeting between the Alachua County Commission and Gainesville City Commission, County Commissioner Ken Cornell brought up the City Commission’s proposal to eliminate single-family zoning during commission comment. Cornell said that county commissioners also represent the residents of the City of Gainesville and that they share the desire to address affordable housing. He commended the City Commission for pledging $8 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to affordable housing but said that he’s been talking to people on the campaign trail and to other candidates, “and virtually without exception… every single candidate running for the City Commission—there are four spots—has expressed a desire to oppose this upcoming change in single-family residential zoning.” He said if it passes and if the State doesn’t oppose it during their review, it will get adopted, then there will be a lawsuit that will put a temporary injunction on the ordinance. Then four new people will join the City Commission in January, “and they will probably reverse it, immediately.” 

He asked the four commissioners who plan to vote for the change to reconsider: “listen to the citizens on Thursday… I am personally against it; virtually everyone that I’m talking to… has expressed significant concerns about changing single-family zoning.” He put a motion on the floor for the County Commission “to officially and formally oppose the upcoming change of the City of Gainesville to eliminate single-family residential zoning—said another way, to oppose the proposed elimination of exclusionary zoning.” County Commissioner Raemi Eagle-Glenn quickly seconded the motion.

County Commissioner Anna Prizzia said she agreed with everything Cornell had said, but she preferred to have a conversation “as a deliberative body” and get feedback from County staff before taking action as a board. She said she would be more in favor of a motion to ask the City Commission to defer the vote and have more discussions with the community about the issue. She said she was more concerned about process than about the rezoning itself because she thought it hadn’t been “written in a way that [the people who object] would understand it and they could support it.” She added, “I’ll just say I think planning should be done with a scalpel and not a sledgehammer.”

“The Obama administration, the Biden administration, Senator Warren, Senator Sanders, Senator Booker, Congresswoman AOC, many national housing groups all say that ending exclusionary zoning will make housing more affordable, reduce environmentally-disastrous urban sprawl, and will reduce displacement… Do you think they’re lying? I guess that’s my question because our President is saying this is how you can address those issues.” – City Commissioner Adrian Hayes-Santos

City Commissioner Adrian Hayes-Santos said he was disappointed that the County Commission had put the motion on the floor. He said, “The discussion of exclusionary zoning is not a unique thing to Gainesville. Exclusionary zoning is a national issue, and that’s why you’ve seen national leaders take stances on it. Ending it is not easy, either, at the local level, but the right decisions are sometimes the hardest decisions to make… The Obama administration, the Biden administration, Senator Warren, Senator Sanders, Senator Booker, Congresswoman AOC, many national housing groups all say that ending exclusionary zoning will make housing more affordable, reduce environmentally-disastrous urban sprawl, and will reduce displacement… Do you think they’re lying? I guess that’s my question because our President is saying this is how you can address those issues.”

“I feel that it is inappropriate for you as a body to… but you’re going to do what you’re going to do… It is not in the best interest of the relationship between these two bodies for us to be telling the other how to do one of their most basic functions… and I wish you would reconsider your motion.” – Mayor Lauren Poe

Mayor Lauren Poe said, “We’re going to have a meeting Thursday, and we’re going to hear from our neighbors… and we’re going to make a decision, and that’s what we’re elected to do. Sometimes there’s overwhelming community opposition to things that end up being a good idea… 98% of the folks that I’ve heard from on this are pure in their intention and thought and are passionate for all the right reasons, and I respect that… Commissioner Cornell, I am disappointed that—I’m fine with you expressing your own personal opinion… but you have fought long and hard for home rule authority and pushed back when the State has gotten involved in local matters. And one of the most basic local areas of authority is setting land use and zoning… I feel that it is inappropriate for you as a body to… but you’re going to do what you’re going to do… It is not in the best interest of the relationship between these two bodies for us to be telling the other how to do one of their most basic functions… and I wish you would reconsider your motion.”

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County Commissioner Chuck Chestnut said, “There is a sense of the public… screaming that they don’t agree with this… They want to be heard.” He said he thought Cornell just wanted to say that the County Commission doesn’t agree with the proposal and that the City Commission has a right to do whatever they want to do, but the County Commission can ask city commissioners to reconsider and “at least listen to the public.” He agreed that the motion “might not seem friendly… But I think it was just a way to get across… what we think about it. That’s all.”

Prizzia, responding to Hayes-Santos, said the people he mentioned at the national level “do have good ideas,” but that the City Commission “didn’t take into consideration your community, didn’t take the time to have the conversations and do the education in the community that was necessary in order to craft a policy that was both good and sound… I still don’t think it’s right for you guys to move forward with this right now… You are hearing from every segment of your community that they’re not in favor of this… You need to take a step back…. One minute [you say] you’ve got to push it through… it needs to happen now or never, and you’re the only ones that could possibly create it and do it, then on the other hand you want community engagement.”

County Commission Chair Marihelen Wheeler said she would rather “take care of these issues here” than get Tallahassee involved. She said Cornell had brought it forward at this meeting because the City Commission would be voting on it in three days. 

“It has no teeth. Therefore, I don’t see how it would be stepping on anybody’s home rule.” – County Commissioner Raemi Eagle-Glenn

Eagle-Glenn said her analysis of the motion was that it would have no legal effect because it was “a recommendation for reconsideration. It has no teeth. Therefore, I don’t see how it would be stepping on anybody’s home rule.”

Cornell said that the County Commission wouldn’t be able to weigh in on the issue if they represented single-member districts because they wouldn’t all represent everyone in Gainesville. Alachua Chronicle asked Eagle-Glenn, an attorney, if she agreed that could be a possible result of the passage of the single-member-district referendum this November. Eagle-Glenn told us, “As single-member-district representatives, we would still make binding decisions for the entire county, and residents would still be able to contact and communicate their concerns to commissioners outside their district. The single-member-district referendum, if passed, will not change the weight or breadth of each commissioner’s ability to vote on matters that come before this board.”

“I bet… 98% of the people in this room voted for President Biden. That doesn’t mean we want President Biden or the people working for him to decide what we’re going to do with land use and zoning here in Gainesville” – Gary Gordon, candidate for Mayor

During public comment, Gary Gordon, who is running for Mayor of Gainesville, thanked Cornell for bringing the motion forward. He said this is not about the process: “It’s about the issue. People don’t want the elimination of single-family zoning… I’m particularly insulted by Commissioner Hayes-Santos’ remark. I bet… 98% of the people in this room voted for President Biden. That doesn’t mean we want President Biden or the people working for him to decide what we’re going to do with land use and zoning here in Gainesville… I could care less what Biden has to say about this. Or Obama, or any other national group that you can pull out, because Kim Tanzer can pull out an equally qualified and credentialed group to say the opposite…. The whole thing has… nothing to do with affordable housing. It’s had to do with some kind of ridiculous agenda to recharacterize the city of Gainesville and turn it into something it isn’t. Take away the quality of life that we enjoyed here, with our neighborhood, and replace it with a fantasy land for developers and outside investors.”

Carrie Parker Warren said, “We came in here to get some heroes today, and we have succeeded. Thank you very much.”

Casey Fitzgerald, president of Gainesville Neighborhood Voices, Inc., said his group sees “no way this is going to accomplish what you’re saying it’s going to accomplish. In my lifetime, this is not going to solve affordable housing in Gainesville. It’s going to cause innumerable adverse side effects, primarily in the black neighborhoods.” He also mentioned the letter he sent requesting a bigger venue, saying that he knew Poe had said last Thursday that they had already sent out notice that the meeting would be at City Hall, “but that’s not a reason to proceed.” He also pointed out that only a few cities in the country have implemented exclusionary zoning (and Minneapolis reversed theirs after two years of litigation), and “there’s nobody in Florida that’s done it.”

“I have read the Biden/Harris/Obama plans, I don’t agree with everything they say on any issue. But in particular, all of those plans talk about engaging the community and tailoring solutions to fit your local community. Not just grabbing Item 16 off of one page of one report and running with it, which is what’s unfortunately happened in this city. And so I really object to the fact that I’m described as being not a proper Democrat for not agreeing with what those particular pages of those particular reports say.” – Kim Tanzer

Kim Tanzer said she’s been focusing on this for several years, but city commissioners have sent staff or set up Zoom meetings instead of meeting with her, or she’s been limited to 3-minute comments. “So it’s really not been possible to have a meaningful conversation on this important issue.” She said the City has “no data” and instead has “a long list of newspaper clippings from other Progressive cities that have done things. And for people in my field, which is architecture, that doesn’t count. That’s not evidence of how it would work here… I have read the Biden/Harris/Obama plans, I don’t agree with everything they say on any issue. But in particular, all of those plans talk about engaging the community and tailoring solutions to fit your local community. Not just grabbing Item 16 off of one page of one report and running with it, which is what’s unfortunately happened in this city. And so I really object to the fact that I’m described as being not a proper Democrat for not agreeing with what those particular pages of those particular reports say.”

The County Commission voted unanimously in favor of Cornell’s motion to oppose the elimination of single-family zoning.

  • Uh… everybody wishes Biden was not their president now. It’s not 2020 anymore. Candidates don’t even want Biden coming to their events, and this is the first time I’ve ever heard anyone suggesting doing something because Biden says it’s the thing to do. Biden is about five beer short of a six pack, and everybody knows it by now. F Joe Biden.

    • Yeah, “let’s go Brandon!”…—-Yo, Adrian: How come Biden & Fauci keep getting Covid when they wear a mask and got all the shots…they be lying about that too. They ruined the dollar & our economy and that’s the truth. Anyone wearing a mask is a hypochondriac or a woke commie…

    • Your comments made me laugh. You obviously have forgotten how many Republican candidates in 2020 who didn’t want Trump anywhere near their campaign events. Many don’t want to associate with him now! There’s no doubt Biden has lost some mental function over the past decade. However, go watch videos of Trump during the past five years. My lord…the stuff that has come out of his mouth makes Biden look like a rocket scientist.

      • That’s funny, I know lots of democrats getting party dysphoria & identify as Trumpers and missing him now..

      • If you’re missing Trump and want to watch his final campaign appearance, in Miami, it’s here…
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=raauy1CLFYE
        It’s one of his best, in my opinion. He takes the stage at about 1:44, but some of the intro stuff is cool. It was his third or fourth stop of the day, and it went well into the middle of the night. Did Biden’s handlers allow him to emerge from his basement to blurt out some unintelligible nonsense that day?

        • I watched some of it. The video would most certainly be put in the ‘comedy’ section. I love the playing of Proud to be an American as he walks on to the stage. Those on the far Right are so incredibly gullible. I would remind you, a few days after this video, he lost by 7 million votes. There’s a reason. The independents and Democrats who took a chance on him in 2016 said, “No more of that!” They were right.

          • Trump is mainstream and not on the ‘Far Right’ lol. Indeed, things were more lighthearted when gas was $2 a gallon, groceries cost half what they cost now, and everybody wasn’t worried about what the heck Biden was going to do next, including starting World War III. Saco’s daddy was likely in the Trump crowd, by the way.

      • Well , He did use his magic wand Bammy said he had. With that wand he lower taxes, created energy indepence and ran the country to MAGA . If you cant see the damage FJB has done to every American I am not suprised. Another failed democrat commie in denial. And yes the election was stolen!

  • The city council needs to go. Have you seen your GRU bill? Have you seen your roads? Oh, that’s right, they want to paint more intersections rainbow colors…i guess they solved those other issues.

  • So far no one has mentioned that the regulation eliminating single-family zoning invites outside developers to cut lots of trees, so it’s means tree city.

    • In their twisted minds they will be saying “they are helping the environment because the trees are a renewable resource…that the trees will be going into their biomass plant to reduce CO2 emissions therefore reducing global warming and they will be housing the homeless with affordable housing”…and Biden & AOC are for it…they wouldn’t lie, would they?

  • Sounds like Po’s lil kitty is hurting. I’m sure Ward will jump right in and do some petting to make it feel better.

    Past time to throw out this litter box full of kitty crap.

  • Adrian Hyphen Hayes: “do you think they are lying?”—-yes Adrian, they are lying and must wear a mask to hide their faces!—— I kept reading the article then I saw Poes’ comments about “inappropriateness”…blah!, What a jackass!!!…he don’t listen to the people and don’t allow them to speak. —-Finally, Cornell said something good and Eagle Glen is great! Good comment by Gary Gordon!…and Kim Tanzer, beautiful.
    The people have spoken.

  • National politicians do or say whatever their Party leaders think will help elections, even if it means implanting “affordable” (gov’t subsidized) housing in suburban conservative hoods. Plus, they give lip service to “saving Black hoods” while gentrifying them for more local tax revenues. Partisans know what to say to what audiences, and what not to say.

  • I may be ignorant by why the push for the blanket rezoning? Why not let each piece of property that wants to change its status apply for a change in status the way it is now? If someone owns Ag and wants to build Commercial – then apply for the change, etc. If someone has a single family piece of property and wants to change the status – let them apply for the change. Clearly NO ONE wants this except some city commissioners. There has to be a hidden agenda or some back door incentives somewhere.

    • There’s definitely a back door. Some commissioners know how to access it better than others.

  • Buy Ward another stack pancakes or flapjacks and Lying Hyphen-Hayes a “I’m a minority!” button and they’ll agree to anything!

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