“It was very divisive”: City Commission votes 4-3 to begin the process of repealing exclusionary zoning ordinances

Commissioner Cynthia Chestnut presents her motion at the January 5 meeting


GAINESVILLE, Fla. – At the first meeting of the new Gainesville City Commission, Commissioner Cynthia Chestnut proposed repealing all of the exclusionary zoning ordinances that were passed last October. The ordinances removed all single-family zoning in Gainesville and made other changes such as removing occupancy limits throughout the city. Chestnut promised immediately after the vote that she would “work day and night in January to get this reversed.”

In today’s meeting, Chestnut said, “For many people, a home is the single most important investment they are going to make, and that’s where, as an African American, I can say that is where we build generational wealth, so to devalue that hits home very hard.” She proposed rolling back the ordinances to where they were before the changes, “then if someone wants to come and adjust it… then you can involve the community and come back with changes.” She added, “It was very divisive racially, economically, and our city needs time to heal.”

Chestnut made the following motion: “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 ordinance numbers 21357, 21358, and 21359, as well as to reinstate the other related changes made by those ordinances.” Commissioner Desmon Duncan-Walker immediately seconded the motion. 

New Mayor Harvey Ward said he wanted to be sure the City followed the correct process so they wouldn’t face “lawsuits back in the other direction.” He added that once the ordinances are repealed, they could take up the pieces that are more popular, like lot splits and the removal of occupancy limits. 

The repeal process is the same as the process for any ordinance

Interim City Attorney Daniel Nee described the “traditional” process: the petitions go before the City Plan Board, then to the City Commission for the first reading; next, the Comprehensive Plan Amendments go to Tallahassee for comment, then back to the City Commission for the second reading. He said the ordinances are not yet in effect and are being challenged with the Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH). Nee said he hoped that proceeding could be “held in abeyance” during the process of repealing the ordinances. 

Nee said the plaintiffs in the challenge had proposed using a Compliance Agreement to repeal the ordinances, but he said that was designed to change portions of Comprehensive Plan Amendments, not to abolish them completely. He said he was concerned that using that process might lead to further lawsuits, so he recommended using the traditional legislative process to do that. 

New Commissioner Bryan Eastman said he wanted to keep parts of the ordinances, including lot splits and the removal of a limit on the number of unrelated people in a single residence. He proposed an alternative motion that removed multi-family units from the new zoning category that replaced single-family zoning and asked the commission to “follow a more thoughtful process on it.” His motion included a special meeting to take community input and also asking staff to do more data and analysis on Chestnut’s motion and how the changes impact affordable housing, environmental sustainability, historic preservation, and equity. He said that would “tell staff we care about their expertise” and not “throw the baby out with the bathwater.”

Duncan-Walker said she was very excited that the commission would be considering an equitable development framework that would address some of Eastman’s concerns at an upcoming General Policy Committee meeting.

Public comment favored the motion; written comment did not

Thirteen people spoke during public comment, all in favor of the motion. When the discussion returned to the commission, Commissioner Reina Saco, who was back on the dais after a “leave of absence,” said she wanted to draw attention to 24 emails that opposed Chestnut’s motion. She added, “Those 24 voices obviously can’t afford to spend hours here; they have jobs, they’re younger, they’re disadvantaged, and they couldn’t be here, but they wrote. They spent that time writing in to let us know they don’t support this, that they would like to one day live to have a home… It is such a looming impossibility for so many… in our 20s and 30s. I just want to make sure that gets noted on the record.”

New Commissioner Casey Willits added that public comments submitted on the City’s website were “two to one against Commissioner Chestnut’s motion. That really is about who’s in the room, who’s being listened to, whose voices have already been made so small that they don’t dare speak up.”

Willits said his district, District 3, is “probably 90% multi-family.” He said that when he went door-to-door to renters, this was not their most important issue, but utility rates were important. He added, “Smaller and even placed-on-top-of-each-other homes are how working-class people outbid the wealthy for land in the places they need to be–close to schools, services, where they work, where they need to buy groceries… Residential exclusionary zoning didn’t come up until after racial zoning had been illegalized by the Supreme Court, but by 1926 in Euclid vs. Ambler… that’s where we got the approval, the go-ahead, from the Supreme Court. In that case, they very clearly called apartments ‘parasites’ on the community. The people I represent in southwest Gainesville are not parasites.” He favored Eastman’s proposal: “Zoning has always been about economic segregation. There is nothing that is going to change that… The original motion is one I cannot stomach.”

The motion passed 4-3 with Willits, Saco, and Eastman in dissent. 

  • Sorry Gainesville, you still lose with Willits and Eastman replacing the previous UF representatives in Districts III and IV respectively! They join Saco as the voice of UF to push the liberal ideals (and spending) that benefit a minuscule number of taxpaying, Gainesville full year residents!

    • Thank goodness we have Chestnut instead of Howland. We are way better off than we were with Poe, Arreola, and Hayes-Santos. The results speak for themselves. And we are down to only two woke children wearing masks, Saco and Willits.

      • I just laugh at those who get so worked up over mask wearing. Do you also fret over motorcycle helmet users? Seat belt wearers? Why do you care?

        • Aren’t both of the mask-wearing commissioners rather obese? If they really cared that much about “protecting their health”, they would lose weight. It’s all just a sham in order to post pictures on leftist social media and so forth. If they got sick and lost 20 or 30 pounds, they’d probably be healthier in the end.

      • Lying Hyphen-Hayes still a parasite on the dais. Needs to be removed, forced out, recalled, or a Maxine Waters style shout out at city hall to go away. He’s an impediment to reasonableness. Get rid of that embarrassment from our dais quickly, legally, and permanently. This new crew might work a bit better than we thought without him. The new mayor is spineless as can be overrun.

          • Wow!!! Hallelujah! I thought that stain and wimp of an excuse for a real man had another year. Let’s ensure “it’s” stupid, wasteful, and ignorant ideas never get another chance to even be a min wage employee in our fair city. Lied to the population for 7 years masquerading as a minority after taking his step dad’s last name with a hyphen, despite being a white wimp from Canada! Hallelujah! He’s gone For Good!

  • Starting at the end, Willis has already shown a bias and refusal to listen to the 100 to 10 people (not special interests) who9 opposed this in the first place. Referring to a 1924 “Supreme Court” decision (which supreme court?) that called apartments “parasites”. Really? This is what we have to look forward to for the next 4 years?

    Saco the mentally distressed Commissioner cited some emails wanting the destruction of single family zoning. Who were they from? What special interests?

    Eastman just wanted to make noise. These are the ones who will try to ruin the city. Watch.

  • What was divisive were the two prior city commissioners and mayor. May they get gone, be gone and stay gone…

    Before a body can heal, the malignancy needs to be exorcised from that body. Hopefully the first step in that process has happened. Now if they could just succumb to the same illness they created, what a much better place this may be.

  • So now we’re going to try and disguise the term “projects” with a new euphemism, “multi-family units?” It’s basically the same thing, a single family home neighborhood is intended and desired by the people who bought those (homesteaded) homes to be just that – not some kind of equity experiment courtesy of our libtard overlords.

  • The irony is the “inclusionary housing” policy is reactionary, not “progressive.” They’ve been on a broken record since 1970, ignoring all the REAL progress the automobile and residential housing design has done via the *private* sector. Environmental science has advanced too — but environmentalists ignore that. The latter have actually made the environment WORSE with their unAmerican, pro-commie globalist “climate” agendas. Including locally right here in Alachua county, they are the ones behind westside water and springs pollution, I-75 centric instead of eastside focus where the water table is naturally protected, they knew it too! Now they oppose “rural toll roads”, another advance in highway design, due to their deep set, blind hatred on the automobile.
    Well, fix District 1, the food deserts you created, and public schools, roads, first. Then talk about how you block REAL affordable housing (without gumment subsidies).

  • Ironic that Wacko Saco speaks of voices who want to be heard but she has repeatedly during her ill-gotten tenure, turned a deaf ear to those crying because of her and the other $ocialists’ policies.

    Now it appears that Willits is taking up the mantle the others have vacated. Willits counts on the many “on top of each other” people living in his district to further his agenda. We all know the reason for that – it takes that many brains, “on top of each other,” to have 1/2 the common sense of other districts. Even with that, they still find themselves lacking.

    You can’t fix ignorance but you sure should have known better than to vote for it.

    • Willits seems about three beers short of a six pack. Soy beer, that is. Like Poe and many other progressive whackjobs, he screeches out every fourth or fifth word he speaks as if that somehow adds importance to whatever woke garbage he is peddling. No, it just makes him sound emotional and mentally unstable.

  • We left a northern state fifty years ago. With the encouragement of the liberal politicians….it won’t take long before this beautiful State will marching to the WOKE crowd, and that is not acceptable to me.

  • Thank you for the excellent factual reporting you do on this and so many local issues, Jennifer Cabrera/Alachua Chronicle.
    This is hopeful news, but we aren’t close to being out of the woods yet, with this current city commission.

  • Maybe willits and sack will document the number of residents that are against this motion. 24 emails? Against how many residents?

    • Let those two woke babies cry themselves to sleep. It’s over now and everything is back to normal.

      Chestnut can move on to fixing other things.

      • I was thinking more along the lines of drown in their tears but then again…

  • The single family zoning attacks are straight out of Let’s Go Brandon and Obama’s playbook and adgenda. Just like no discipline and schools, no bond for criminals. They need to stay out of politics and fix the Sheet Show in GVille including State Audits forthcoming. Politics brought us the Biomass Debacle. You would think they would learn or at least get voted out. Shame on the Gaineville voters. This attack on our investments by changing zoning is totally political.

  • While I don’t live in the city, I still congratulate the City Commission and the good citizens of Gainesville for defeating this UF inspired nonsense. Keep fighting the good fight, UF does NOT rule. They try, but they don’t.

  • What were Eastman and Willets position on the zoning issue during the campaign? Did someone change after elected?

  • So those commissioners would not be opposed to a quadraplex being built on each side of their house, especially if it is marketed as “affordable ” rentals? Do they even live in a house, or are they apartment dwellers?

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