Zoning laws exist for a reason: To protect and separate one set of land uses from another. These separations are put in place to keep incompatible land uses separated.
Thankfully, in a democracy, people vote for representation. Our representatives gather public input, consider all sides of the land use issues and develop a comprehensive plan that promotes sustainable growth while protecting residents. There is no citizen participation in the zoning processes of autocracy-style governments, and very little for oligarchic systems.
Furthermore, because we have a federal system of government, local entities have the right (and duty) to protect the interests and needs of the local constituents. Thankfully we do not live in a land where local planning authorities freely grant permission for elitist land owners to do what they will with their land, even if it is incompatible with the nature of the land.
In a democracy, a person may ask for a change in zoning to meet his or her needs. This proposal to change the local zoning laws is brought to the public's attention in order to protect the rights of the individuals who stand to bear the impacts of such changes.
I feel that it is necessary to state the obvious: Just because a person asks for a change in zoning law does not necessitate a change in zoning laws.
The Norton Agency Insurance LLP has expanded beyond its capacity at its existing site. It now seeks to acquire additional land in a residential neighborhood and change the zoning from residential to office to accommodate growth with parking spaces for 32 vehicles, while diluting the historic residential fabric of the neighborhood.
Residents in the affected neighborhood have voiced their displeasure with the changes proposed.
In order to accommodate their requirements, the Norton Agency has asked not only for a change in zoning from residential to commercial but also is asking for multiple variances to modify the property. This neighborhood is a mixed-income, multi-ethnic neighborhood with a true sense of harmony and heritage.
Additionally, the 2030 Gainesville Comprehensive Land Use Plan places this area in Suburban Residential Medium Density Land use, emphasis on residential.
There are more than enough properties available on Green Street that are already zoned and ready with parking to accommodate the Norton Agency expansion.
We should note the actions of a wealthy business that feels it has the right to take over whatever land it sees fit and repurpose it for its use. Thankfully, I have faith in our local zoning board and City Council to do the right thing and not grant this change in zoning and the myriad variances required to reshape the historic home site to their needs.
For what the Norton Agency seeks is a total violation or our rights and jeopardizes our standard of living (that of a neighborhood) and the fabric upon which we were built over a century ago.