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Gainesville Plan Board proposes changes for developers of single-room occupancy residences

Gainesville City Plan Board members Stephanie Sutton, Robert Ackerman, Jason Sanchez and Joshua Ney discussing EV parking amendment Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. (Michael Tubbs/WUFT News)
(Michael Tubbs/WUFT News)
Gainesville City Plan Board members Stephanie Sutton, Robert Ackerman, Jason Sanchez and Joshua Ney discussing EV parking amendment Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. (Michael Tubbs/WUFT News)

The Gainesville City Plan Board proposed at its meeting Thursday changing requirements for developers of single-room occupancy residences. It also proposed establishing a minimum number of electric vehicle charging stations in parking lots.

Developers of single-room occupancy residences that don’t have in-unit bathrooms may now be required to add more than one private bathroom per floor. And future multifamily residential and nonresidential developments will be required to dedicate a portion of parking spaces to electric vehicle charging stations in parking lots.

“Looking at the definition of SROs in the Land Development Code, this is a residential property with multiple single group dwellings used for occupation by no more than one family per room. They are shared restroom and kitchen facilities, and the most familiar example would be dormitories or hostels,” Ari Rabinovich, who presented the amendment with the Department of Sustainable Development, said.

The amendment’s biggest change will require these residences to have one locked private bathroom with a sink, toilet and shower for every four units. This was changed from the originally proposed one bathroom per floor.

“People will do the bare minimum if that’s what we write in there,” Board Member Jason Sanchez said.

One requirement that was removed was “SROs must be located within one-quarter mile from a public transit stop.”

Parker Eckert, a Lexington Crossing resident, raised concerns about this because he uses public transportation.

“I actually entered Gainesville with a car, and just due to high cost of car ownership and being a student, I switched to becoming car-free. So, I regularly use public transportation every day,” Eckert said.

He addressed the fact that single-room occupancy residents are supposed to be an affordable housing option for people. Due to that and cars being a large cost, many people who live in these residents use public transportation, which led him to question why that distance requirement would be removed.

The board addressed this concern by explaining why removing the requirement wouldn’t have a big effect on the location of single-room occupancy residences.

“The explanation that we developed for ourselves is that some of this is market-driven, and it’s not a very attractive place to put an SRO if it’s out in the transit desert,” Chair Board Member Robert Ackerman said.

Eckert said he understands the board’s reasoning but doesn’t fully trust it.

“It does make sense to me what they said, but like, the fact that a developer can is a concern,” Eckert said. “I could understand not having affordable housing next to a bus station if it was next to a bike line, right, but there’s no guarantee for that.”

This amendment also removed a proximity requirement that prevented these residences from being within 1,000 feet of one another, and the requirement for common laundry facilities to be provided. The last change removes the need for 24-hour management and replaces it with a required on-call staff.

Another city plan board proposal was to continue an EV charging station and infrastructure amendment until the board’s meeting in April. It was pushed out two months to see if any state legislation passed in that span changes what can and can’t be done.

Rabinovich said the proposed amendment would require new multifamily and nonresidential developments to have one EV charging station for every 10 parking spots and would require 10% of all parking to be “EV Capable,” which means a parking space can become a charging station.

“The intent of this is to get us closer to our net zero carbon emission goals,” Rabinovich said.

This amendment was met with multiple concerns for its overall affordability for local businesses, how it would affect affordable housing and its effects on the electric grid.

Sanchez said that right now this is something that sounds better in theory than it does in practicality.

“I’m a lot more comfortable with 5%, I’ve worked on projects in the country where we're having to show these EV charging stations, and it’s a lot to work into a development, and my bigger concern is it’s a lot on the electric grid,” said Stephanie Sutton, the board's vice chair.

The board likes the goal of what the amendment is trying to achieve but believes that it needs more work before anything can be approved.

One suggestion by Sanchez was to start requiring one EV charger at 20 or 25 parking spots and then add one for every 10 more spaces after that. This would be one way to help protect small businesses.

“I think the climate crisis is kind of important,” said Board Member Joshua Ney. “So, I really think we need to be doing whatever we can to reduce our CO2.”

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