Posted: Thursday, May 1st 2014 at 9:28pm
Gainesville City Council to decide fate of Lanier Plaza
By Marc Eggers Staff
GAINESVILLE – When the Gainesville City Council votes on one particular rezoning request Tuesday night at the Public Safety Complex, they will make some folks smile and some folks sour…including many within the Gainesville city government.
That’s because on April 22nd the Gainesville Planning and Appeals Board voted 4-2 to deny a rezoning request made by Polestar Development, LLC, to rezone a 1.741-acre tract on Thompson Bridge Road, and on the other side of the issue is the Gainesville Department of Community Development.
Community Development Director Rusty Ligon appeared at the City Council work session Thursday morning to restate his department’s case.
At issue are the 31-year-old Lanier Plaza shopping center and rumors that Walmart might be the next owner. Adding to the debate’s fervor is the refusal of the developer to divulge the name of the new tenant.
Ligon stressed that regardless of who wants to develop the site, a zoning error must be corrected.
“For some reason, we don’t know why,” Ligon explained, pointing to an aerial photograph of the existing 53,000-square-foot complex built in 1983 and the applicable zoning line set over 30-years ago, “I think this is a mistake.”
“Here is the zoning boundary,” Ligon said, tracing the boundary for Council members to see as it ran through the back half of the existing building. “It is what we call now ‘a legal non-conforming situation.’”
“This much of the building shouldn’t be allowed,” Ligon said. “(But) now we have an application from someone who wants to come in and demolish the shopping center, demolish the parking lot, and build a grocery store that is 11,000-square-feet smaller than what is there now.”
“Why are they not grandfathered-in? Because they’re tearing down the building (that sits across the zoning boundary), so their grandfathering-status in our opinion goes away.”
“So now you have got to make it correct,” Ligon added.
Ligon went on to delineate his department’s reasons why the new development would be a noted improvement over the existing situation. Nonetheless, he pointed out, at issue is the need to correct the zoning discrepancy.
“What you are to consider is: is it appropriate to rezone this back portion? We believe as a staff it makes sense to do that regardless of any new development. It’s a non-conforming situation that we didn’t know about.”
“But when the developer came in and we did our research we found out this mistake was made,” Ligon said.
Whatever the reason someone might have for liking the new development plan or detesting it, Ligon reminded Council members that their vote was only about rezoning the tract of land that has errantly become a part of the shopping center.
Ligon said, “I think people want to make this a referendum, or a decision, about a development or particular brand of development; that decision was made 31-years ago – to develop this for commercial purposes. So we’re 31 years too late,”
For a third time Ligon stressed to Council members, “What you are to consider is: does it make sense today to correct this non-conformity? It is our (the Community Development Department) opinion it does make sense to correct that non-conformity.”
The City Council will make their decision on Tuesday, May 6, 5:30 p.m. at the Gainesville Public Safety Complex on Queen City Parkway.
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