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Gainesville Planning and Appeals Board declines to initiate mass rezoning
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The Gainesville Planning and Appeals Board decided against initiating a controversial rezoning this week, a move that would have set a precedent for the appointed board.

Last month, four female residents of the Ridgewood Avenue area, calling themselves the OurNeighborhood Task Force, asked the board to recommend rezoning a large portion of the neighborhood that allows multifamily housing to a more restrictive, single-family zoning. Some neighborhood residents opposed the request. At that meeting, Chairman Dean Dadisman promised that the board would make a decision in the months to come.

The board revisited the subject at its meeting Tuesday, and again decided against any action until the area’s neighborhood planning unit could form and more opinions could be heard, Planning Director Rusty Ligon said.

The unit would include interested property owners from the area.

"They were open to the concept (of rezoning), but were hesitant to initiate that themselves without hearing from more people," Ligon said.

Once the neighborhood planning unit is formed, the group can decide its goals and objectives for the future of the Ridgewood area neighborhood. One of those goals could deal with land use, Ligon said.

"Land use will certainly be one of the topics of the neighborhood planning unit group," Ligon said.

If the neighborhood planning unit decides it wants to have some areas of the neighborhood rezoned, it would require 100 percent approval from property owners or a request to the Planning and Appeals Board or the Gainesville City Council to initiate the rezoning, Ligon said.

Yet, as the women of OurNeighborhood Task Force discovered, not all of the property owners in the area want to rezone their properties to the single-family zoning.

"It’s challenging to get 100 percent authorization to (rezone a large area)," Ligon said. "They’ll have to look at other avenues to do it."

Gloria Melancon, a member of the OurNeighborhood Task Force, said she is worried the board’s decision to wait on the outcomes of the planning unit may slow progress in the neighborhood.

"The more people involved, the more diluted the process becomes, because it just moves slow with too many people trying to make a decision," Melancon said.

By deciding against any action, Melancon said she believed the planning board passed up the responsibility of decision-making.

"They evidently did not want to make the decisions," Melancon said. "... I get the feeling from the meetings I’ve attended that they just don’t want to do it, it’s just too politically touchy."

Joan Alford, also a member of OurNeighborhood Task Force, said she expected board members to wait on the neighborhood planning unit.

"I think eventually it will work out," Alford said. "I think we also will continue to keep an eye on things and complain to the marshal’s office when we continue to see major problems."

The neighborhood planning unit will have its first meeting in mid-September at the Gainesville Civic Center. Affected property owners will receive a letter notifying them of the exact date and time of the meeting, Ligon said.

Melancon, Alford and OurNeighborhood member Mary Jardin already have asked to be placed on the planning unit’s steering committee, Melancon said.