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Gainesville board approves rezoning
Fair Street neighborhood focuses on single-family housing
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Fair Street and Newtown residents are one step closer to preserving the residential feel of their neighborhood.

Gainesville's planning and appeals board gave unanimous approval to rezone 252 parcels from residential-II and planned unit development, which allows multifamily housing such as apartments and some commercial uses, to neighborhood conservation, which only allows single-family housing.

The Fair Street Neighborhood Planning Unit steering committee asked for the zoning change on the southeast side of Jesse Jewell and E.E. Butler parkways to prevent future commercial construction.

The move extends the group's 2009 success of rezoning 129 properties in the Fair Street and Newtown areas.

"We have knocked on doors, written letters and called property owners, and we feel like this is the beginning of an opportunity to revitalize our area," said Berlinda Lipscomb, a steering committee member and Fair Street resident. "I've participated in comprehensive planning meetings and can see the excitement everyone has for the development of Gainesville and Hall County."

The planning unit, a residents-led group created in 2007 to preserve the quality of the neighborhood, has set a goal of preserving the single-family residential character of the area.

If the zoning request is approved by the Gainesville City Council, planning unit members will try to bring in federal funds to paint houses and repair windows.

"A few houses have been rehabilitated, and we would like to see more," Lipscomb said. "We can come together as a unit and feel like we're working toward something."

The preservation and beautification ideas are starting to come to fruition, noted Gainesville City Council member Myrtle Figueras, a steering committee member who was mayor when the planning unit started.

"The community connectivity, beauty and wonders of people working together makes me feel good," she said.

Though the second round of rezoning took longer to tackle than the first, more residents seemed to be on board. A few property owners fought the 2009 rezoning, but no one spoke in opposition Tuesday.

"It sounds like a great project to me," said Dean Dadisman, chairman of the planning board. "I'm so glad to see this taking place in that community."

Board member Connie Rucker, also a member of the planning unit's steering committee, recused herself from the vote since she worked on the project.

"Now everyone can see the hard work we've done in that area," she said after the meeting. "I hope it helps."

Nearly 20 residents showed up to support the zoning change.

"If you don't care about your home, you can't expect someone else to care," said Doreen Thomas, a steering committee member and Prior Street resident. "Respect begins with yourself and your home."