Gainesville OKs ballot initiative for second time, building code changes 

Mayor Harvey Ward speaks at Thursday's special meeting.
Mayor Harvey Ward speaks at the April 11 special meeting.
Photo by Seth Johnson

The Gainesville City Commission voted Thursday to reaffirm its ballot initiative, appoint seven members to a new Downtown Advisory Board and loosen building standards for single room occupancy residences.  

The city commission held a first and second reading for its ballot initiative in May, but City Attorney Dan Nee said the city wanted to ensure the ordinance, which directs the city clerk to send the ballot initiative to the election office, satisfies a new state law that requires a business impact report.  

The original votes on the ballot initiative lacked that report. Thursday’s vote had the report, which said putting the ballot initiative on the ballot will not have direct impacts on businesses.  

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The ballot initiative will ask voters whether they want to eliminate Section 7 from the City Charter. Section 7 was added by the Florida Legislature last year to create the Gainesville Regional Utilities (GRU) Authority to run the utility.  

The ballot language says that control of the utility would then return to the City Commission. A second vote on the initiative will come on June 20.  

The GRU Authority has called the ballot initiative illegal.  

Mayor Harvey Ward said the ordinance isn’t about control of the utility. 

“This is not about moving governance,” Ward said. “This is about giving the people of Gainesville the opportunity to vote on how they want the governance done, and I think that is always a good place to start from.”   

The commissioners also selected seven residents, out of 16 applicants, to serve on the inaugural Downtown Advisory Board. According to the city of Gainesville’s website, the board will provide recommendations on the annual Gainesville Community Reinvestment Area (GCRA) budget and amendments, the Downtown Gainesville Strategic Plan and the GCRA program development. 

The members selected were Richard Allen, Teresa Callen, Timothy Hutchens, Jacob Ihde, Anthony Lyons, Linda McGurn and Sara Puyana.  

The city commission also approved several changes to the building codes regulating single room occupancy residences (SROs), like dorms and hostels. These residences have several rooms connected to a shared living area, either with shared restrooms or one per bedroom. 

The changes approved by the commission will allow more options for developers, with city staff hoping to motivate the construction of these residences to increase density and low-income units.  

The changes eliminate requirements for the residences to be located within a certain distance of public transit, other SROs or laundry facilities if not provided. The residences also no longer need an onsite management office.  

The commission approved the changes unanimously. A future vote will finalize the changes.  

In the consent agenda and voted on as a group, the city commission approved a new policy that requires city workers traveling for business or training to use the Gainesville Regional Airport.  

The consent agenda also contained a half-a-million contract to begin design options for the Eighth Avenue and Waldo Road project.  

Editor’s note: The word hostels was corrected from hostiles.

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Gainesville Dad

The city has violated state law by knowingly submitting a falsified business impact report. They claim, without evidence and seemingly without even pretending to have done any research, that there will be “no impact”. The credit rating agencies have already stated that this action would result in an outlook change or credit downgrade, potentially costing GRU $28 million in additional interest payments.

This payment will be passed along to residential and business customers.


Book em ,Dano

Jeff Gehmann

City leaders can’t stand that their almost broke, over-indebted former cash cow is no longer available for raising rates and getting a huge transfer every year. I guess they’ll operate on taxes like everyone else, and not be able to approve new commissioner’s (with zero business experience) bright ideas !