Gainesville council OK's zoning changes after public feedback

Apr. 19—The Gainesville City Council unanimously approved a zoning change Tuesday that will restrict what types of businesses can be located along the city's major thoroughfares.

The council approved a zoning overlay district, encompassing California Street, Interstate 35, Highway 82, Grand Avenue and other main roadways, that will prohibit certain types of storage facilities and energy farms.

"The goal of this ordinance is that since the city is limited on the amount of land we can acquire ... since we have such limited land, we really need to get the best use out of it," said City Manager Barry Sullivan. "Ultimately, by having the best uses, the commercial, which gets more per square foot, brings in more sales tax compared to these other types of uses ... That then turns around and brings us more property taxes and sales taxes, which brings taxes down on the rest of the public, especially the residential homes.

Amendments were made to the plans after a large reaction from community members during the public hearing for the district during the prior city council meeting on April 2.

Ten business owners raised concerns about how the ordinance was vague on definitions and restricted plans they already had in progress. City staff has spent the past two weeks working to remedy these issues.

The turnout to Tuesday's meeting was much smaller than the previous meeting, but three people returned to see how the ordinance would proceed.

Businessman Johnny Thompson said Tuesday he still was not satisfied with the changes, wanting more clarification on definitions of storage facility types and types of trailers. He also voiced his displeasure with how if any portion of the lot, tract or parcel is located within the district, then the entire limits of the property is considered part of the overlay district. He asked the council to vote down the changes.

Two other business owners who spoke previously came to Tuesday's meeting to thank the council for listening.

"Can't say it makes everybody happy," said Sullivan. "But, I think it's a much better ordinance."

New language

"Under Section Two, we added subsection D, and we changed the nonconforming use building exception," said Sullivan. "If you already have buildings built in this area, on that same land, you can expand in that same area; we're giving you until Dec. 31, 2029 to go ahead and expand that facility."

The rest of the grandfather clause is the same as the city's standard clause, where a nonconforming already existing business may remain as long as it remains continuously active, not stopping for a period longer than six months. Also, if more than 50 percent of the building is destroyed, it cannot be rebuilt to reopen.

"As far as the definitions, when we looked at that ... We took it to the attorneys and they were comfortable with the definitions," said Sullivan. "That's the same definition we've had for more than 20 years now."