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"First Do No Harm"

Robert Mounts <> Wed, Oct 10, 2018, 9:43 AM

Dear Mayor Lauren Poe, Members of the City Commission, City Manager Anthony Lyons, and Ms. Wendy Thomas, Director of the Department of Doing

Last night (Tuesday, October 9, 2018) the Board of Directors of the University Park Neighborhood Association (UPNA), cc'd above, unanimously approved this letter written on their behalf:

On Thursday, October 18, 2018, at 6:30 PM, the City Commission will again take up the transmittal of this year’s proposed update to the Comprehensive Plan to state reviewers, in preparation for later consideration of an ordinance implementing the details in the Land Development Code.

“Housing and Infill” changes will rely heavily upon housing diversity and density incentives to developers (such as waiving setback or height requirements) in exchange for various “public benefits”, such as having 10 percent set aside in perpetuity for “affordable housing”.

This vote will be taken before the wider community has an opportunity to comment in one of four “Community Meetings” to be scheduled by the end of November in each electoral district. As concerns are growing about the impact on established neighborhoods of even greater density than already allowed today, to include traffic and parking, this train must be slowed down, if not stopped.

My neighbors can support more diversity in housing forms. However, they oppose a de facto change in zoning that would convert single-family residential areas to multifamily or commercial, simply by changing the “permitted uses” in the Land Development Code, in order to promote GNV R.I.S.E. objectives. This circumvents existing zoning laws and notice requirements.

Commissioner Gail Johnson’s recent plea to the Gainesville Housing Authority to consider a Housing bond issue could provide badly needed funds to acquire and rehabilitate older homes, which in turn could be made available for sale or rent to those in need.

If properly resourced, “Community Land Trusts” also offer a more attractive means to provide affordable housing, encourage home ownership, and stabilize neighborhoods, without increasing density. That and more could add to local efforts to achieve equitable housing without opening long-established neighborhoods to undesirable real estate speculation and redevelopment. 

My neighbors see the need for affordable housing and can support a variety of strategies to meet the need, so long as existing residential neighborhoods are protected. As Commissioner Warren recently noted, the Commission needs to revive discussion of ways to prevent gentrification and displacement.  The proposed density incentives to developers would only add to this inequity.

Increased density would negatively affect the character of Gainesville's established neighborhoods. While “accessory dwelling units” are acceptable if owner-occupied, stand-alone triplexes, multiplexes, and “bungalow courts” are typically more attractive to transient renters (i.e. students), thus decreasing residential neighborhood stability and overburdening existing infrastructure.

The Plan also would allow a two-story “live/work unit” in all residential neighborhoods, that is, an “owner-occupied single dwelling unit attached to a ground floor space reserved for and used by the occupant for office, service, or retail”. Retail? Really? (Later acknowledged to include office only in single-family zoning.)

Lastly, planning staff, without meaningful public input, appeal, or review by higher authority, will make final decisions on most development projects. Wow! Where is the accountability?

Clearly, the City Commission needs to take a step back and reconsider our community priorities. Gainesville is not a laboratory for such experiments. Once such entitlements are in place, there is no going back.  As doctors prescribe: “first, do no harm”.

Respectfully submitted,

Robert Mounts, President
University Park Neighborhood Association
Cell: (352) 665-9296

P.S. I might add, Mayor Poe, that while the information provided yesterday at the UF-Gainesville Research Awards Showcase regarding the "Neighborhoods as Community Assets Project", featuring the Porter's neighborhood, was described as an example of successful "community engagement", I am advised that little, if anything, was revealed to Porter's residents during that engagement about the details and ramifications of the Housing and Infill proposals now being put forward for approval by the City Commission.Housing and Infill Portion of Update to the Comprehensive Plan: "First, Do No Harm"

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