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Council to wrap up 2010 business
Final public meeting for the year scheduled for Tuesday
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Gainesville City Council members are wrapping up their final plans for the year-end meeting for the first time in the city's new Municipal courtroom today.

City officials will hear their annual financial report from Rushton & Co., set their meeting times for 2011 and hear results from Tuesday's controversial planning and appeals board meeting.

At the Dec. 2 meeting, council members debated moving all meetings to the 5:30 p.m. time slot rather than alternating between night meetings on the first Tuesday of each month and 9 a.m. meetings on the third Tuesday of each month.

"I've heard more comments that people can't make the morning meetings," said Mayor Pro Tem Danny Dunagan. "The morning meetings are so unattended it's unbelievable."

Council member Myrtle Figueras suggested leaving the meeting times where they are so residents can continue to chose when to attend.

"If I saw people overfilling the meetings on the first Tuesday, then I could see us moving both to night meetings," she said. "But if we're really doing this for the people, then I think we should continue to give them a choice."

Gainesville's planning director Rusty Ligon will also discuss code changes that were proposed Tuesday.

The planning board refused to amend the city's Unified Land Development Code to allow for "industrialized residential buildings," or pre-fabricated homes, in traditional subdivisions.

"Frankly I'm just not going to vote for it, I just won't," said planning board member Joe Diaz said. "I'm going to vote ‘no' and the state legislators can do what they can do."

The allowance was mandated by a state law passed during the last legislative session, but the board voted unanimously against the change. Diaz said he was opposed to pre-fabricated homes locating in subdivisions.

The city attorney recommended the code change to conform with state law, and now city officials will look into the discrepancies.

Planning board members decided to move forward with zoning changes to 65 acres of the still developing Mundy Mill subdivision.

Develop Wendell Starke of Butler Property LLC asked to construct 1,235 apartment units instead of 460 condominiums, believing the change will address demand in the housing market.

Starke said the current and future housing market calls for apartments, not condos. For the time being he wants to plan, not build.

"In this economy we're not likely to start anything right away," Starke said.

Throughout July to September 2009, bank after bank foreclosed on millions of dollars of property at a time in the subdivision. In December 2009, Butler Property entered the scene and acquired several developed but vacant lots that had been foreclosed on by United Community Bank. Once Regions Bank foreclosed on the largest chunk of property in the summer, Butler bought the acres this September.

Since then, Butler started removing trash from the property, and the homeowners association is now operating. The common areas are being maintained again, and entrances are being repaired.

The one objection came from Dean Warnock, a homeowner in the nearby Maple Forge Subdivision, who feared the zoning amendment would hurt property values.

"This is a deviation from that standard," Warnock said. "If the city is not going to protect us, who is?"

City council members will also hear about possible water main improvements to take place throughout the city and vote on all items during this year's final public meeting on Tuesday.