HomeOpinionGainesville Neighborhood Voices asks City for change of venue for Exclusionary Zoning meeting
Gainesville Neighborhood Voices asks City for change of venue for Exclusionary Zoning meeting
August 1, 2022
Open letter from Gainesville Neighborhood Voices
Dear Mayor Poe, Honorable Commissioners, Ms. Curry, and Mr. Nee:
Your decision to forge ahead with this Thursday’s public hearing on three ordinances that will impact at least 40% of your citizenry in a room that will only hold 30 individuals is highly inappropriate and inconsiderate. While you plan to make some additional space available in the basement and lobby, it will not be adequate to accommodate the citizen turnout that could be in the hundreds. Even though you will allow alternative avenues for public comment – by email and phone – many, if not most, of those who wish to comment would prefer to do so in person. A request for a change of venue was sent to you as early as 10 July by Jo Beaty with follow-ups on 13 July and 21 July. Her requests on the 10th and 13th were well in advance of the ordinance advertisements for this meeting that came out on 20 July and could easily have been accommodated.
Furthermore, at the General Policy Committee meeting on 28 July, Mayor Poe specifically recognized the looming problem when he said, “we fully intended to try to do that (find another venue) but… notice was already sent that said for city hall.” This is not at all a reasonable conclusion since there is no regulatory reason that this hearing has to be rushed, only a political one. The County Commission set an example that you should follow, when they moved the public hearing about the Plum Creek development proposals from County chambers to the Eastside High School auditorium. A similarly sized venue, perhaps at Lincoln Middle School, is where this hearing should be taking place.
There are a number of irregularities in your decision-making process, advertisement, and proposed management of this meeting that must be pointed out, and that call into question the legality of the City’s proposed actions.
First let’s note that there was an inaccurate advertisement for Ordinance 211359 in the Gainesville Sun on 18 July. A corrected version was posted on 20 July. But in that advertisement it says the Ordinance is to be heard at 10:00 am. Given that it is now on the agenda for the evening, the advertisement was not accurate.
At the close of the 28 July meeting with the Commission sitting as the General Policy Committee, at the request of the Mayor, you took up discussion of the August 4th meeting logistics, an item that was not on the agenda. This is very poor public policy and puts the City on very thin ice.
The decision to have public comment at the beginning of the evening meeting (presumably after the staff presentation), but before motions have been made is, again, very poor public policy. The public deserves a right to comment on each of the three complex ordinances to be considered after motions have been made and before the votes. This is particularly important given that alternative ordinances have been proposed by Commissioner Hayes-Santos and the public will not know if the City’s proposed ordinances or the Hayes-Santos-proposed ordinances are the ones to be voted on.
There are two advertised times for the August 4th meeting. The advertisement that appeared in the Gainesville Sun on 20 July states the meeting will begin at 5:00 pm. The agenda posted on the City’s legistar site and the notice on the City’s website list the meeting time at 5:30. Obviously this is confusing and has the potential to harm a citizen’s opportunity to participate.
The 4 August agenda was only posted on the legistar site on 29 July, just 6 days in advance. This severely limits the public’s ability to prepare for comment.
And finally, the instructions about public comment included in the posted legistar agenda are inconsistent with the notice on the City’s website. The agenda suggests that public comment will be allowed on each ordinance.
For all of the reasons above, we strongly urge you to yet again postpone this critical hearing. A new and larger venue needs to be selected, and citizens should be allowed to comment after motions are made on each of the ordinances once it is clear which alternatives are to be voted on. As elected leaders, you should be providing accurate and considerate administration of your duties – a far cry from what has transpired to date and what will transpire this Thursday if the meeting proceeds as planned.