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Plan Board recommendations on Inclusionary/Exclusionary Zoning petitions will be discussed at June 21 City Commission Workshop

Gainesville City Plan Board meets on June 6

BY JENNIFER CABRERA

Bottom line: The Plan Board declined to implement city-wide zoning changes that were requested by the Gainesville City Commission, but the Commission doesn’t have to follow their recommendations. The next step will be a workshop at 1:00 p.m. on June 21 at City Hall.


The next step in the Gainesville City Commission’s plan to implement zoning changes that they describe as Inclusionary Zoning and Exclusionary Zoning will take place on Tuesday afternoon, June 21, with a workshop at City Hall. The published agenda includes a review of the June 6 Plan Board meeting and staff notes from the June 1 Affordable Housing Workshop.

“Neighborhood Residential” Land Use

The June 6 Plan Board agenda listed six petitions from the City of Gainesville to amend certain provisions of their Comprehensive Plan and Land Development Code. The first was a request to rename the Single Family (SF) land use category to “Neighborhood Residential.”

The Board took about 45 minutes of comments from members of the public who wanted to “speak broadly” before addressing the first item. Following that introductory public comment, Plan Board Chair Stephanie Sutton led off by saying that in the past when the Plan Board has given direction to the City Commission, “they have made some pretty significant changes to it at the last minute,” so she thought it would be helpful to hear City Commissioners’ comments at the June 21 workshop before taking a final vote. However, other board members thought that votes on specific motions would be a better method of communicating their advice to the City Commission.

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Juan Castillo from the Department of Sustainable Development explained that the current Single Family land use permits single-family detached dwellings at densities up to 8 dwelling units per acre. The new Neighborhood Residential land use requested by the City Commission would replace the Single Family land use everywhere in the City and would add “as well as neighborhood scale multi-family development of no more than four (4) units per building” to the types of units allowed.

63% of residential parcels in the City of Gainesville are currently zoned Single Family. Castillo said a second option would be to replace the Single Family land use with Residential Low-Density (up to 15 units per acre).

Public comment on the agenda item went on for another hour, with most people expressing concerns over neighborhood compatibility, parking issues, noise issues, concerns that the changes would not actually produce an increase in affordable housing, and concerns that the Plan Board and City Commission are not listening to the public.

Following public comment, Sutton said she had “concerns with this being proposed to change all of the single-family zoning everywhere.” She said her preference would be a special use permit that “would set a higher standard for letting this happen, but we do allow a pathway for… more units.” She proposed adding Neighborhood Residential (which would include up to 4 residential units per building) as an additional land use category.

Board Member Thomas Hawkins liked the idea because “there’s no map amendment that comes with it,” so any future changes would happen on a specific piece of property. Hawkins made a motion that the Plan Board recommend to the City Commission that it adopt a Neighborhood Residential Future Land Use Category with wording he handed out at the meeting and that the City not make any map amendments to apply that designation at this time. The wording he handed out added definitions for duplex, triplex, and quadruplex, and stipulated that development happen on existing platted lots. His motion specifically did not remove the Single Family land use but added a new category called Neighborhood Residential that could be applied to specific parcels with a Special Use Permit. Board Member Sophia Corugedo seconded the motion. 

The board voted unanimously to adopt the motion, with Board Member James Blythe and School Board Representative Tina Certain absent.

Neighborhood Residential Zoning District

The board then voted to move the third item up on the agenda and considered it next. That item amended the City’s Land Development Code to consolidate all the Single Family Residential Zoning Districts and rename them as Neighborhood Residential Zoning District. The petition also reduced the minimum lot size and minimum lot width, which “would enable more housing units to be developed.” Setbacks would be reduced in most cases to 10 feet front and back and 5 feet to each side, and the maximum height would remain at three stories.

Hawkins made a motion to keep the existing Residential Single Family (RSF) 1-4 uses, consistent with the existing Single Family Future Land Use designation that they had just voted to keep, but request that the City Commission create a new Neighborhood Residential zoning category to be consistent with the Neighborhood Residential Future Land Use category and make no map amendments at this time. Corugedo seconded the motion.

During public comment, Tana Silva said, “I can see the City Commission blowing right past your second request,” and Sutton replied, “They may do that, no matter what we decide tonight. They do it all the time.”

The members of the public who spoke were generally appreciative of the vote on the first item and hoped the City Commission would follow their lead. A few people objected to any changes, and several people questioned the assumption that building more units of housing would lead to more affordable housing.

Following public comment, Hawkins amended the motion to require 10-foot setbacks on the street side of a lot. The same six members voted unanimously to approve the motion.

Neighborhood Scale Multi-Family Use

The board then went back to the original second item on the agenda, which requested amending the Land Development Code to define a Neighborhood Scale Multi-Family use, which defines the new residential type (up to 4 units) allowed in the Neighborhood Residential land use. This would be a specific use to allow for more than one family to live in a building designed to look like a single-family home; the maximum number of units allowed in the building would be four, with a minimum of two units. The building would be limited to three stories, with one building per lot, and the facade would be consistent with a single-family use, with a maximum of two primary entrances.

Following some board discussion about facades, bike racks, and parking, Hawkins made a motion to continue (defer) the item, with a request that staff make some amendments to the proposed definition of Neighborhood Scale Multi-Family, specifically evaluating minimum parking standards and prohibiting parking between the front of the building and the street. Second, he asked staff to revise the facade standards to also refer to building orientation (requiring that the facade face the front of the lot) and consider appropriate standards for side facades.

The board voted unanimously to continue the item to a future meeting, with requests for staff to make changes before bringing it back. 

Removing occupancy limits

The fourth agenda item was a request to remove occupancy limits in the Land Development Code. The current code limits the number of unrelated people living in a single-family unit to three in the University of Florida Context Zone; the change would remove that limit and allow more unrelated people to live in one single-family unit. 

Hawkins said he didn’t like the occupancy limit because “it’s prejudicial against different family formats,” but he said he couldn’t support getting rid of it unless other measures are put into place to manage trash collection, parking, yard maintenance, and noise issues. He said the issue should be a “non-starter.”

Board Member Bob Ackerman said it is unenforceable and “it’s long since time we got rid of it.” Board Member Joshua Ney agreed that it’s unenforceable. Sutton, however, thought “the problem is only going to blow up” if they get rid of it. She said the rule is regularly broken, but landlords keep it in mind when deciding who to rent to, and “I think you open yourself up to an even larger host of problems if we remove this.” She said she was open to changing it, but only if it’s replaced by “another way to control those issues.”

During public comment, Melanie Barr pointed out that 20 unrelated people could live in a 2-bedroom house if occupancy limits were removed: “That would be a parking nightmare.”

Bob Fulton, President of the Golfview Association, said that removing the occupancy limit could lead to “flop houses… I would suggest that removing limits not only is a poor idea… it’s basically a psychotic idea.” 

Corugedo said she’d lived in a house with five people when she was younger, and she wouldn’t have been able to afford to split the rent three ways: “I don’t think three makes sense. I think it is exclusionary.”

The board members all hesitated to make a motion, but Hawkins eventually made a motion to deny the petition and keep occupancy limits in place. Sutton believed that, as chair, she was unable to second the motion, and nobody else wanted to second it. Ackerman made a motion to approve the petition, which would remove all occupancy limits. Ney seconded the motion. Some votes were hard to hear, but the motion passed.

At that point, it was past 10:00 p.m., so the remaining items were deferred to the next Plan Board meeting on June 23. 

June 21 Workshop

The June 21 workshop, which will be held at City Hall at 1:00 p.m., has two agenda items: a review of all of the items on the Plan Board’s original agenda (including the ones they deferred to June 23) and a review of staff notes from the June 1 Affordable Housing Workshop. The staff recommendation for both items is for the City Commission to provide feedback to staff and schedule future public hearing and/or ordinance dates as appropriate. 

The notes from the June 1 Affordable Housing Workshop can be viewed here. Comments from the breakout sessions mirror many of the concerns expressed by the public at the June 6 Plan Board meeting, including several comments expressing the opinion that the breakout leaders were biased in favor of the new zoning proposals and that most participants were not in favor of the zoning proposals, but the decision-makers were not listening. Other concerns included comments that the proposal helps students but not families, a need for more data, and the concern that the change would be irreversible. 

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