A Gainesville single family home sits in the shade behind the towering Standard complex. (Brett Pizzi/WUFT News)
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Gainesville City Commission Delays Decision On Changes To Comprehensive Plan

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*Editors note: This story has been updated to correct an earlier version that stated the City Commission delayed a decision to change zoning laws.

Updated: September 21, 2018, 4:15 p.m.

The Gainesville City Commission has delayed their decision on the implementation of a new comprehensive plan to bring more affordable housing to the city of Gainesville to allow more time to inform the community about the changes.

The September 20th City Commission meeting left several city residents furious and confused as to what the proposed changes hoped to accomplish. Words like “Gentrification” were thrown around. Some residents in attendance expressed fear they would be forced out of their historic homes and were frustrated the commissioners didn’t seem to be listening to them.

“There’s no understanding of what a neighborhood is,” Tana Silva, who lives in the Pleasant Street Historic District, said.

The program, known as GNV R.I.S.E., aims to bring affordable housing to the city of Gainesville through providing incentives to developers. “R.I.S.E.” stands for “Resilient, Innovative, Sustainable, and Equitable” and is meant to bring greater housing density to the Gainesville area. This would allow for buildings to exceed the current maximum limit of units/acres otherwise established.

The commission has proposed this new plan in light of the lack of affordable housing throughout Gainesville. As the city’s population continues to rise, the City Commission has looked to ensure students and other local Gainesville residents have options for housing beyond luxury apartments that have continued to be erected throughout Gainesville.

“We need to have a conversation about how we’re going to deal with the population inflow,” said At-large commissioner Helen Warren. “We need to find a way we can maintain the way and feel of the people who have been here a long time.”

Residents worry their quiet neighborhoods and privacy will be sacrificed for more affordable housing and large businesses. They told the commission there was not enough notice given about the proposed changes to the plan and that the changes were ambiguous and unclear.

Wendy Thomas, director of the city’s Department of Doing, has followed this project closely, hosting dozens of public meetings with the community since January to ensure the proposed changes to the comprehensive plan are clear. Thomas said there needs to be some changes made to the language of the project in order to get the community on board to make affordable housing possible and to avoid any further confusion.

“It’s an evolutionary process,” Thomas said. “It’s not going to be stop and start.”

The City Commission delayed their voting for the day, and instead proposed to continue their discussion with the community, ensuring that the language and their plans for the future were clear. The City Commission will continue this discussion until a more ideal decision can be made for both the future residents and for current residents.

“We are at a crucial point where we need to decide if we’re in this together or if we’re adversaries,” said David Arreola, District 3 commissioner. “I don’t want our citizens to feel as if we’re not listening.”

About Brett Pizzi

Brett is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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  • Tana Silva

    Thank you for the coverage, Brett. It’s a hugely important issue that needs lots of coverage. The main point is that this is not about “affordable housing.” It is a rezoning of all residential neighborhoods without proper notice or public input. We’re not at all confused about that. Proposed changes would grant speculators “density bonuses” to circumvent regulations so they could subdivide lots and build 9 expensive apartments for 1 that is deemed “affordable,” to the detriment of the best, most diverse, affordable neighborhoods.

    • If it hadn’t been for a message from Robert Mount on the Next-door site I wouldn’t have known about this. Why is there no coverage in the Gainesville Sun or elsewhere? This is only article I pulled up. Thank you so much for speaking out Tana. I saw the city commission meeting. I live in Kirkwood where our homes have enormous lots. These can easily be carved up to make student complexes within walking distance of the campus–and who is responsible for these luxury condos that students can’t afford? Answer: the same city that is lining its pockets from building them. We are facing one of the biggest threats to our community and no one in my neighborhood even knows. So, thanks for speaking out at the City Commission meeting.

  • Elizabeth Hauck

    Thanks to the commission for slowing down and listening to voters.

    The school board should take a lesson.