The Gainesville City Commission voted Thursday to schedule a special meeting to take the next step to repeal changes to the city’s land use and zoning ordinances that were approved last fall.
The commission’s 4-2 vote during the commission’s General Policy Committee set the special meeting for April 19.
In October, the commission voted 4-3 to collapse the city’s four existing single-family zoning categories into a neighborhood residential category that would allow duplexes, triplexes and quadraplexes in residential areas previously designated for single-family homes.
In January after seating new commissioners, the current commission voted, again 4-3, to repeal the changes that had passed in the fall.
The commission then sent its proposed repeal to the Plan Board for comment and an advisory opinion on the ordinances, which is part of the normal procedure for new ordinances that change Gainesville’s Land Development Code.
However, the Plan Board, which discussed the repeal at its February meeting and heard from citizens about the appeal, voted to defer making its recommendations until its April meeting. The Plan Board also asked to set up a joint meeting with the City Commission about the repeal before the board met again to discuss it.
Members of the Plan Board support repeals of parts of the ordinances – such as the across-the-city, blanket changes to single family zoning — but the board wants to discuss other elements such as keeping the October changes that reduced property line setbacks, created smaller lot size minimums and made splitting larger lots easier.
Under the city’s rules, the city commission may proceed with an item if the Plan Board hasn’t made a recommendation after a 45-day period.
The Plan Board’s decision to postpone its discussion until its April 27 meeting placed any recommendation it makes at the meeting outside the 45-day window.
However, Mayor Harvey Ward said the plan board can still discuss the item at its March 23 meeting and still make a recommendation to the commission.
Commissioners Bryan Eastman, Reina Saco and Casey Willits spoke against the motion, saying it overstepped the plan board. But Eastman said he would vote for the special meeting in order to avoid a 3-3 stalemate since Commissioner Desmon Duncan-Walker left the meeting early.
Eastman has advocated for rolling back controversial parts of the three housing ordinances while keeping parts that have consensus. However, the commission decided in February to fully repeal the ordinances before moving forward with new policies.
“I would like us to be able to move forward with some [housing options] that are very interesting and worthwhile and I think the community would support, but I’m not going to do that until I complete my promise to the community with my votes,” Ward said.
The housing ordinances, centering on exclusionary zoning, took the top spot in Mainstreet Daily News’ top local news stories of 2022.
Also at Thursday’s GPC meeting, the commission also heard a presentation from Morgan Spicer, policy oversight administrator, who conveyed research on sponsorship policies at different cities, counties and organizations. The city currently has no set policy for sponsorships, donations or naming opportunities.
Each entity researched used different metrics. Most assigned dollar figures in order to determine who would give final approval of a sponsorship—whether the commission, city manager or department head.
Spicer outlined several pros. She said it’s easier to establish sponsorships when the city has a clear outline, it provides a streamlined and repeatable process, and it provides funding for city facilities or programs.
She said cons include parties leaving the project before signing a contract and estimated costs that could rise, leading to disagreements on sponsorship amounts. She also said specialized projects could require exemptions from the policy.
Ward said he believes a sponsorship policy could help the Gainesville finance programs currently funded solely from the city budget, especially in the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Department.
“As we move into a leaner season, my hope is that we are able to find community support for those programs,” Ward said. “This is, frankly, a part of that.”
Commissioner Cynthia Chestnut said the policy, if adopted, would support a revamped sports and event center at NE 8th Avenue and Waldo Road. Chestnut has advocated for that project since rejoining the commission in February 2022.
She said the project could include several naming and sponsorship opportunities.
With additional reporting from Camille Broadway.