The Gainesville City Commission voted 4-3 to adopt on first reading three ordinances that repeal the series of exclusionary zoning ordinances passed by the previous commission in October 2022, setting the stage for a final repeal.
The commission held a three-hour special meeting on Wednesday to consider the ordinances that will return zoning law to its previous iteration along with other land development items included in those October ordinances that caused community concern.
Commissioner Reina Saco opposed the repeal along with commissioners Bryan Eastman and Casey Willits. She voted in favor of the changes in October and against a repeal on Jan. 5 when the new commission took office and decided on the new path.
She said the majority of Gainesville’s residential land, 63%, will be made inefficient by only allowing single-family dwellings and run against the city’s current comprehensive plan.
"There are no master's degrees in urban planning up here—at all,” Saco said. “But we have probably close to a century of experience telling us this is a bad idea. We have a federal government telling us this is a bad idea."
However, the four-vote majority of Mayor Harvey Ward and commissioners Cynthia Chestnut, Desmon Duncan-Walker and Ed Book held.
Alachua County and Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity will now review the ordinances and give input. In the fall, both entities advised against the ordinances as written, but the commission continued forward.
The Department of Economic Opportunity and two Gainesville citizens filed challenges to the ordinances on hold in Florida’s Division of Administrative Hearings.
Ward said that the city needs to overturn the ordinances that caused community outcry in order to have a new conversation about how to change the development code in a way the community supports.
He said that plan causes frustration for some but called the method legally bulletproof in January.
The previous commission had eliminated the city’s single-family residential zoning categories and replaced them with a neighborhood residential zoning category that would allow under certain conditions the building of duplexes, triplexes and quadraplexes in neighborhoods throughout the city.
The October ordinances also changed rules on lot splits, removing occupancy limits and increasing bedroom limits within the UF context area.
Chestnut put the repeal motions before the commission in January.
“You don't need a master's degree to determine what the policies are,” Chestnut said on Wednesday. “We listen to the people and we know what they're saying and that is what we're doing.”
She expressed concern that city staff continues to advise against a repeal, saying the previous regulations work against the comprehensive code.