Imagine Gainesville project seeks more resident voices


A Gainesville advisory board is seeking more resident voices to help set guidelines for affordable homes, quality education, good-paying jobs and thriving neighborhoods by 2030.

The city plan board held a virtual workshop Tuesday night to discuss the current draft of the Imagine GNV project. The plan aims to present the city with steps it can take over the next decade to prioritize the quality of life for residents who were historically marginalized.

However, board members feel they need greater resident input to improve the plan.

But one of the biggest setbacks to bringing the plan to fruition is the lack of active community engagement.

“[It’s] essentially a blueprint for a community,” said Andrew Persons, interim director of the city’s department of sustainable development. “It’s a legally binding document.”

The board has compiled state regulatory ideals, such as those corresponding to land and economic development, conservation and environmental protection, combined with concepts that will benefit the entire community, said Board Chairwoman Stephanie Sutton.

Sutton expressed her concerns about how easily understood and user friendly the draft is. She said that the plan is phrased like a history book and that the document is repetitive.

Overall, Sutton said she knows that the board has progress to build on and wants to make the plans more positive. But Sutton said she believes that the document is very negative.

She said she finds it strange that, while the board is including maps of subdivisions with a racial divide, they are not including map plans for future land developments.

If a map were to be included at all, according to Sutton, it should be a future land use map. As of now,  the only map being shown in the developmental section of the draft has no positive connotation.

She asked the board to become more aspirational with its plans as they look toward the future of the community. Sutton said she thinks that the plans would be more effective if the map that is used shows the residents of the area positive change that is underway.

The developmental section of the draft, which acknowledges the racially driven segregation present in the city, focuses on building a more diverse and inclusive community, urban planner Nathaniel Chan said.

“We wanted to think about where we can reimagine and fill in gaps where equity could play a piece,” he said. “Our goal with this outcome was to explore how we as community builders can build with a resilient or resilience framework.”

The board also discussed specific future land use concepts that got lost in the redraft. Board members, including Thomas Hawkins, said they hoped to encourage mixed-use neighborhoods, prohibit gated subdivisions and limit automobile dealerships to North Main Street.

But one of the biggest setbacks to bringing this plan to fruition is the lack of active community engagement.

Board member Bob Ackerman said he believes that, without more community input, there may be a backlash when the draft is completed.

“I find myself increasingly uncomfortable that we’re going to do this comp plan update with virtually no public input,” he said. “Meaning, I understand that people have the opportunity, but whether we’ve caught their attention or not; I think that the answer is pretty resounding. We haven’t.”

Sutton worries that not even the regular attendees have been showing up to meetings regarding plan updates.

“I think that sometimes people just want to come and talk to other people about it,” she said. “It’s about every aspect of our lives in the community that we live in. It’s hard to just sit by yourself in front of a computer screen.”

The project has established listening sessions, development and comp planning workshops and a website, specialist Anne Wolf said. It has also shared conversational guides with faith-based groups and community organizations.

The board should hold meetings outside of City Hall, in the Porters Community Center or in library branches on the west side and east side to broaden its audience, Hawkins said.

“I really like the idea of some in-person meetings. If we give the community a list of three meetings, and ask them to invite their stakeholders to the one that is closest to you or is most convenient, we could attract more people,” said Sutton.

The board is scheduled to meet Feb. 24 to discuss further revisions and outreach concepts.


About Summerleigh Stones

Summerleigh is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing

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