Gainesville City Commission votes 4-3 to repeal exclusionary zoning ordinances on first reading

Still from broadcast of April 19 City Commission meeting – Alachua Chronicle


GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The Gainesville City Commission voted 4-3 tonight to repeal the exclusionary zoning ordinances that were passed last October on first reading. Tonight’s Special Meeting was the final step in resetting the City’s zoning after commissioners voted 4-3 on January 5 to direct staff to “initiate petitions to reinstate single-family Future Land Use and zoning in the city and all the areas where those designations existed prior to the adoption” of the ordinances.

The meeting started off with a rare 6-1 vote to adopt the agenda, with Commissioner Reina Saco voting against the agenda, which consisted of only the three ordinances and member comment.

Slide from the staff presentation at the meeting, showing single-family zoning in Gainesville.

63% of residential parcels in Gainesville allow for the construction of only one housing unit; the ordinances, which are described here and have not been implemented, changed all single-family zoning to a new zoning district that allows small-scale multi-family housing. Other parts of the ordinances changed lot split and minor subdivision regulations, removed occupancy limits, and increased the bedroom limit in the UF Context Area.

The draft ordinances were presented to the City Plan Board at their February 27 meeting, and that board decided to move their discussion of the ordinances to their April meeting. On March 9, the City Commission voted to set this Special Meeting. On March 23, the City Plan Board held its regular meeting and voted to recommend denying the three proposed ordinances and to uphold the exclusionary zoning ordinances. 

Forrest Eddleton, Acting Director of Sustainable Development, said staff believes that the regulatory reforms in the previously-passed ordinances would have a beneficial effect on the overall supply and diversity of housing within the city and are consistent with the commission’s stated goals of addressing the housing crisis using locally available options.

Eddleton added, “Respectfully, should the commission vote to rescind these ordinances, staff recommends that the commission provide direction on what regulatory reforms the commission will support, and of course, always and respectfully, staff will move in that direction.”

Following the staff presentation, Commissioner Cynthia Chestnut made a motion to adopt the proposed ordinances. 

Commissioner Reina Saco argued that repealing the ordinances would “declare open season” on predominantly-black neighborhoods and that the ordinances align with many priorities of the City Commission, including increasing affordable housing and decreasing sprawl. “I know I’m outnumbered, but I wasn’t going to go down quietly because those things needed to be said.”

Chestnut pointed out that Gainesville is the only city in Florida to remove single-family zoning from its land uses and said she was concerned that staff recommendations continue to oppose the policy decisions of the City Commission. “We listen to the people, and we know what they are saying,” she said.

Mayor Harvey Ward said that although the ordinances are important, they will likely have little effect in either direction: “That’s what most communities are finding.”

During public comment on the first ordinance, 12 people spoke in favor of rescinding the ordinances, and three people spoke against rescinding them.

Kim Tanzer said that only 20% of the city’s land is in single-family zoning (although those lots are 63% of the parcels) and that the City has never determined how much of the land is in Planned Developments. She also said that when the City Plan Board recently voted on the ordinances, that item was not on their agenda but was brought up during member comment; she reminded the commission that there are two active legal challenges to the exclusionary zoning ordinances. Commissioners Casey Willits and Reina Saco got up to leave when she started speaking and returned when she finished. Willits later explained that he had chosen that time to go to the bathroom because Tanzer writes op-eds and letters that express her opinion.

All three ordinances were repealed 4-3, with Commissioners Bryan Eastman, Saco, and Willits in dissent. The ordinances must still come back for a second reading at a future meeting.

  • Wow! They finally got something right. Before most of you start patting yourself on the back, this is more likely a result of other recent meetings than their change of heart.

    Nice observation by Chronicle staff to make note of the 2 progressive idiots leaving during the presentation by Ms. Tanzer. You know how children are, if they don’t get their way they go pout somewhere.

    Maybe Willets the Weasel was telling the truth, he and Wacko Saco just needed one another to determine what bathroom to go into.

    • Given the thumbs down, apparently someone else must have helped with the gender identity.

  • The city can get rid of the director of sustainable development, the climate czar, and diversity/equity departments…anything with UN jargon that’s being implemented here locally. No ESG. Go woke, go broke.

  • Childish action by Willets and Saco.
    Dock both of their paychecks for being AOL.
    That’s absent without leave.

  • It’s more realistic now. They already approved ADU granny suites, and repealed the limit on unrelated adults living in SF units. That’s as much as the existing older infrastructure can handle.
    The city cannot afford to increase infrastructure capacity, and the county and state aren’t willing to cater to millennial or Z tiny house dreams either.
    The only plausible reality is to convert empty commercial and industrial tracts with cob webs from Covid and GRU rates, into homestead high density condo units. Sorry those won’t pay the higher taxes and GRU commercial rates, but they killed the golden goose long ago.
    Everything happens for a reason. 😢🥲🙃

  • Don’t break out the Champaign yet. Ward only voted against this because he knew he couldn’t get elected mayor otherwise. They’ll just break this ordinance into smaller bits and hope no one is paying attention when they do it.

  • Wait! So you mean citizens elected new commissioners who represented their wish to overturn actions of past members? Wow! Well, I think this could have happened faster if Clemons and Perry had just tried to get the governor to ram it down the throats of citizens and not mess with this democracy thing.

    PS Many commenters here had missed that there was an election which brought in these new members, but hopefully this catches them up on the facts of things of which they happily comment in complete ignorance. They just hate Gainesville and Alachua County and hopefully will have moved before the next election.

    • Only one of the new commissioners voted to repeal the change the other 2 voted the same as their predecessors.

      • And on those remaining in office changed his vote. The math is simple and the new commission reversed the will of the past commission.

        Is this difficult for you? Do you wish Clemons and Perry just took over the decision from Gainesville voters?

        • Changed his vote? The man stated all throughout his campaign that he wanted to change this, he did it on his own. what do Clemons and Perry have to do with this? Everything I read about the issued stated that there was significant public opposition to the changes.

    • Maybe Willets could use more help during the next bathroom break since Saco has said she’s only going to work 50% of the time.
      It’s apparent where your loyalties lie.

    • Just because you vote for one of two choices, doesn’t mean you support everything they do.

    • What is it like in fantasy land where everyone is trying to do harm to Gville/Alachua? Don’t you get tired of making up these boogiemen? Don’t you get tired of the constant fear mongering? Are you at least being paid? It’s like the boy who cried wolf with you, when something actually DOES happen, we won’t believe you.

      • No not everyone, just the State GOP, the Governor, and Clemons and Perry who are loyal to those 1st 2 and disloyal to their home county and it’s largest city for purely partisan reasons. You want the list again? The Governor has taken advantage of 2 vacancies in local boards to appoint party Republicans who couldn’t win a dog catcher race here, and were quickly dumped by voters next election, Clemons and Perry who voted to withhold funds for Alachua County schools (and it passed of course), Clemons with Perry sitting beside him (literally) is trying to take control of GRU from citizens and hand it to the governor, and Clemons for trying to overturn county wide elections of commissioners – even though that’s how most Florida counties operate – with a big lie campaign, introduced late enough to not allow refutation. This aren’t our representatives, their Ron Napoleon’s and the state GOP. As if as further proof, the 2020 census redistricting cut more of Alachua County out of their districts since their margins – even with illegal dark money from FPL (hmmmmm?) – was getting too close.

        • That response was to be expected and explains everything anyone needs to know.

  • Saco and Willits are just plain rude. Their feelings were hurt. They plus Eastman have shown no rational directions for the city.

  • “Forrest Eddleton, Acting Director of Sustainable Development”…..So, he is an interim hire in what is likely a toxic environment. Run, Forrest, Run!

  • Worse city commission, worse county commission and worse school board in the over 50 years I have lived in G’ville. By far.

  • I’m thought Eastman campaigned to reverse the elimination of single family zoning. He voted with the two mentally ill commissioners against that position in this vote.

  • This is going to happen, the elimination of SFZ! It’s about tax revenue so it’s going to happen.
    That 3bd 2bt single family house on .2 of an acre… if it wasn’t there we could have a 3 level 12 unit condo so the house will now be taxed as if…

  • ACC- Please don’t feed into the regressive media’s characterization of this as “exclusionary zoning.” It’s Single Family Zoning. It exists all over Gainesville. It exists all over Florida. There is nothing wrong with it. In fact, it’s a good thing.

  • Please correct.
    It is not true that “63% of residential parcels in Gainesville allow for the construction of only one housing unit;” they allow for 3 units right now.

  • >