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Fair Street group pushes for single-family zoning
Move would prevent future commercial construction
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Several Gainesville residents are pushing plans to make their neighborhood a better place.

The Fair Street Neighborhood Planning Unit wants to rezone about 200 parcels on the southeast side of Jesse Jewell and E.E. Butler parkways to prevent future commercial construction. The move would extend the group's 2009 success of rezoning 129 properties in the Fair Street and Newtown areas.

At Tuesday's Gainesville City Council meeting, Myrtle Figueras asked the other council members how to speed up the process. The rezoning would change the area from Residential II, which allows multi-family housing such as apartments, to neighborhood conservation, which calls for single-family housing.

"Our latest effort continues our mission established in 2008 to do single-family housing, and I need your advice on what to do," Figueras said. "We have about 72 percent of property owners in support, but in some areas, we haven't been able to contact the owners, particularly where there are absentee landlords who own investment property."

In early 2010, the planning unit's steering committee decided to extend their previous success by seeking out an additional 200 property owners to the south and east of the 129 rezoned properties.

The group will likely present a zoning application this month, said Jessica Tullar, the city's special projects manager who helped to establish the neighborhood planning unit.

"At that time, they established six goals, which included maintaining and preserving the single-family feel," she said Wednesday. "This is continuing their efforts to achieve that vision and stabilize that area."

As the process moves forward, Figueras wants to do what she can to make a second rezoning application successful.

"We need to help reward those who have been working so hard to get this done," she said Tuesday night.

The planning unit will meet at the Fair Street Neighborhood Center on Feb. 28 to talk about additional goals that extend beyond the rezoning.

"They also want to improve the condition of housing and property in that area and build on the neighborhood charm," Tullar said. "These ideas would improve the visual aesthetic of the area, so they want to talk about how to approach those type of changes."

The group will meet with Chris Davis, the city's housing manager, to discuss using Community Development Block Grant funds to improve the area.

The federal funds are given to cities annually to help with demolition, lead-based paint jobs and home rehabilitation to bring residences up to code in blighted areas.

"(Fair Street) is really a transitional area, and a lot of work we do with rehabilitation assistance could go toward that area," he said. "Concentrating our efforts can make the funding go further because focusing on one area can really show visible impacts."

Davis is excited to work on an area where a neighborhood group is taking action.

"I want to support a neighborhood that is involved with volunteerism," he said. "The people are trying, and I can help them help themselves because they have the neighborhood at heart."

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