GNV alters 794 lots, substandard parcel criteria

Commissioner Desmon Duncan Walker, right, speaks at Thursday's regular commission meeting with Commissioner Cynthia Chestnut, left, listening.
Commissioner Desmon Duncan Walker, right, speaks at Thursday's regular commission meeting with Commissioner Cynthia Chestnut, left, listening.
Photo by Seth Johnson

The Gainesville City Commission voted Thursday to finalize changes to 794 parcels within category four single-family zoning and lots deemed substandard due to size.    

The commission split 4-3 on the vote, mirroring the first reading from August. Commissioners Ed Book, Cynthia Chestnut and Desmon Duncan-Walker were in dissent.  

The changes reduce the side setbacks from 7.5 feet to 5 feet for houses within the zoning category. Plus, the houses can now use up to 5 feet within the front setback for a porch or stoop.  

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For lots deemed substandard due to size, the new resolution would remove size from the criteria. Instead, developers will need to show capability with the surrounding area through two or more lots of the same characteristics within 500 feet that have a principal structure.  

Substandard lots are determined based on the following criteria:  

  • Has less than 5,000 square feet of lot area in a district where the minimum required lot area is 5,000 feet or greater  
  • Has less than 80% of the minimum required lot area in a district where the minimum lot area is less than 5,000 square feet  
  • Has a lot width or lot depth that is less than 50% of the minimum required lot width or let depth in a specific district. 

Commissioners reiterated their positions from the first reading.  

Book said an application from one developer, though it went through the correct process, shouldn’t cut across all quadrants of the city and parcels within the zoning category, and Chestnut called the motion an attack on Black communities.  

“We must stop this attack on Black neighborhoods in this city,” Chestnut said. “This commission cannot allow this to go on; you’re destroying us.”   

Mayor Harvey Ward said the ordinance wouldn’t allow any new structures or uses for lots. He pushed against fears that the motion would allow apartment complexes or other large changes to neighborhoods.  

“This gives a right to people who have a nonconforming lot to be able to do something with that lot that’s generally not worth much if it’s nonconforming,” Ward said.  

After the vote, Chestnut put forward another motion. The motion directs city staff to collect data on how development reacts to the changes and return with semi-annual reports detailing the number of new developments, proposed developments and what type of structures will be built on them.  

Her motion also will bring back the changes in two years for the City Commission to reevaluate. The motion passed unanimously.  

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