Gainesville postpones zoning meeting

Desmon Duncan-Walker and Harvey Ward
Gainesville City Commissioners Desmon Duncan-Walker (left) and Harvey Ward both oppose the proposed code changes. (file photo by Seth Johnson)
Photo by Seth Johnson

The City of Gainesville has postponed its special zoning meeting scheduled for Wednesday, July 13, after its public notice contained the correct date but incorrect day of the week. 

The city announced the postponement on Sunday and said it hoped to avoid confusion by moving to a new date that has yet to be announced. 

The Gainesville City Commission would have considered, and possibly voted, on three interlocking housing ordinances that plan to collapse Gainesville’s current four single-family zoning categories into a new neighborhood residential category, eliminate occupancy limits and increase the allowed density on an acre of land.

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These proposed changes have stirred widespread opposition within the Gainesville community at previous meetings and prompted an online petition that garnered more than 1,300 signatures within 6 days.

The new ordinances also spawned community workshops in June along with a special Gainesville meeting on June 21. At the meeting, residents crowded City Hall, forcing extra chairs in the chamber and the use of an overflow room. 

The commission has divided on the proposed code changes with Commissioners Cynthia Chestnut, Desmon Duncan-Walker and Harvey Ward opposing it. 

The neighborhood residential zoning districts allow multi-family buildings with up to four units. The change also allows current single-family houses to change into duplexes for rent. 

At a virtual town hall meeting on June 30, Andrew Persons, Gainesville’s director of sustainable development, said owners could make the modifications to turn a single-family home into a duplex without building amendments. However, to create a three- or four-unit building, the owners would need to follow tighter building codes. 

“Local regulation just happens to be something that the city, and other local municipalities and counties, largely has complete control over, so we can, through regulatory reform, try to address our local housing shortages by creating more opportunities for more housing to be built,” Persons said. 

He added that most neighborhoods will remain unchanged if the reforms pass, but in time exclusively single-family-home neighborhoods could see “small, multifamily units” begin to pop up. 

Persons said that Gainesville’s older neighborhoods, like the Duckpond and parts of Stephen Foster and Oakview, contain mixes of single- and multi-family dwellings that began before city regulation. 

According to the city, Gainesville contains 63% single-family zoning. Persons said many of the other zoning districts have similar requirements as the proposed neighborhood residential zone.

The neighborhood residential zoning will limit buildings to two stories, allow two parking spaces between the building and the road and continue tree mitigation efforts with a one high quality tree standard. 

Another proposed change would allow owners to rent properties to three or more unrelated individuals. Gainesville currently sets the limit at three unrelated people, but property owners attested to the difficulty in enforcing the regulation at the city’s special meeting. 

The proposed code changes would:

  • Revise the single-family land use category to include multi-family buildings with up to four units
  • Consolidate and rezone the city’s four single-family zoning districts into a single neighborhood residential zoning district
  • Increase the allowed housing density per acre in the neighborhood residential
  • Reduce required lot size for neighborhood residential zones
  • Shrink the distance homes have to be setback from the property lines
  • Remove city-set occupancy limits. Statewide occupancy standards would still apply.

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There are hundreds of places to construct multi unit housing around Gainesville without destroying our single family neighborhood’s.


One unit is a building which may have 4 bedrooms. So 4 units x 4 bedrooms = 16 bedrooms and HUD standards allow 2 per bedroom so a potential of 16-32 people on one formerly single-family lot with all their accompanying cars. bikes, mopeds, etc. and only 2 required parking spaces. Street parking on the right of way will be the norm.

An acre lot can have up to 12 units with 4 bedrooms each = 48 bedrooms x 2 persons = 96 people living within a single-family neighbourhood with almost zero lot lines (5 and 10 feet) and no fences or walls required on property lines.

This is a ludicrous density allowance for single-family neighbourhoods. We all know that developers will build to the maximum allowable. We see the maximum allowed, some with density bonuses, in all the single-room occupancy (SRO) multistory structures around town. Clear cut by a bulldozer, no trees or vegetation left standing. At least many build parking garages.

BEFORE removing the 4 single-family zones, why not rezone commercial, industrial and other zones to allow residential? This would create affordable housing and density in primarily low-cost parcels along major thoroughfares where there is already existing infrastructure. Who would have thought of that? NOTE: This is in the government’s plan as one way to create affordable housing.

Kurt Johnsen

The petition now has over 1,800 signatures and growing steadily. The overriding point is that no one knew about this until a few of us found out and started spreading the word. The opposition to the overall plan has been unanimous except for 1 person who comes to each meeting. In spite of that our elected representatives choose to ignore us, talk down to us, and will impose this sweeping (city-wide) and irreversible ordinance upon us against our will. 3 of the 4 are lame ducks. If it is such a good plan why can’t they let us vote on it?

Kurt Johnsen

The link to the petition is; Please join the grass roots effort to stop or change the vote. Kurt


The four GNV Mayor and Commissioners supporting this action are nothing but Communists! Ramming an action they want regardless of what the citizens want! They have no concern for the damage they will do to single family homeowners property value when their developer bosses start buying and building in each neighborhood!