The Gainesville City Commission will move forward with two neighborhood meetings to gather input on potential housing changes as city staff works to shorten the time needed to approve subdivision plating.
The commission unanimously approved the multipart housing ordinance at Thursday’s General Policy Committee, and many of the proposed changes come from initiatives already brought forward by Commissioner Bryan Eastman and a 2021 housing study.
The neighborhood meeting will inform residents and collect feedback on minimum lot dimension standards, changes to single-family zoning and subdivision standards that restrict cottage neighborhoods.
The commissioners discussed the best way to bring Eastman’s proposals forward without placing too much burden on staff or making it seem like the proposals were already on the way to becoming ordinances.
Commissioner Ed Book said Gainesville shouldn’t put across the city policies in place until it here what people from across the city have to say on the issue, advocating for meetings with other community groups and neighborhood workshops.
“We should lead policy from first understanding what the community determines is the policy we should be leading on,” Book said. “It’s almost circular in that regard.”
Commissioner Reina Saco said she’s for informational meetings if hosted by a commissioner, but she said she didn’t want to place that burden on staff. She added that those meetings don’t draw in everyone who needs to be at the table.
“The community isn’t being heard,” Saco said. “The landed gentry is being heard. Those who have the free time and the opportunity to show up will show up.”
Saco said the commission was elected by citizens across the city to make these decisions.
The commission ended with two neighborhood workshops that would precede a formal ordinance process. In the meantime, city staff will work to shorten the time developers wait for plat approval of a subdivision.
Eastman said this process lasts around 16 months for the city compared to seven months for Alachua County. The longer applicants wait, the more money gets spent on the development, increasing costs for future residents.
Andrew Persons, special advisor to the city manager, said the city hasn’t updated its process for many years and can likely whittle down to the seven months the county uses. Currently, the city uses a three-part process with a design plat, construction drawings and final plat.
Persons said only the final plat is required by the state and that the city would likely condense the design plat to save time.
The motion also directs Gainesville Regional Utilities (GRU) to look into lower water and wastewater connection fees for new developments, another developer cost that impacts affordable housing.
With the new GRU Authority set to begin in October, General Manager Tony Cunningham said his staff wouldn’t be able to return with a recommendation before then. But he said GRU would look into reductions.