City mulls limiting number of rentals


Published: Friday, January 20, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 20, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
Gainesville city commissioners took the first steps Thursday toward giving residential areas greater protection against a growing number of renters who some say are disrupting the fabric of single-family neighborhoods.
At a joint meeting of the city's Public Safety and Community Development committees, commissioners explored a number of ways to strengthen city codes or increase restrictions on the number of rental units in a given neighborhood.
These restrictions are necessary to ensure the health of single-family neighborhoods, representatives of several Gainesville neighborhood associations told the commissioners. Under current regulations, renters disrupt these areas with loud parties, unkempt properties and a large number of cars parked on lawns and on the streets, they said.
"I don't object to students living in my neighborhood," said Jodi Gentry, a resident of the Forest Ridge subdivision north of NW 16th Avenue. "But I do object to the behavior I see happening daily on the property across the street from me."
Conflicts between renters - often students at the University of Florida or Santa Fe Community College - and their neighbors has been a long-standing problem in Gainesville. But in recent years, expanding school enrollment and rising real estate prices have driven students farther from the campuses and deeper into traditionally residential neighborhoods, such as Forest Ridge.
This is compounded by problems enforcing city codes, the residents said. In many cases, city ordinances do not impose harsh enough financial penalties on those who violate codes to prevent future violations, said Jimmy Harnsberger, a resident who spoke at the meeting.
Commissioners took no specific actions Thursday, but asked staff to look into proposals recommended by both members of city government and staff. The full City Commission could take action on the recommendations.
Proposals varied from ordinances that would restrict parking on lawns and streets to adjustments that would increase the penalties to landlords and tenants if code violations occurred on a property. Commissioners also considered ordinances that could restrict the number of properties that could be used as rentals on a single block.
Among those proposals offered at the meeting were several designed to attach greater social stigma to those who disrupt neighborhoods and the landlords that rent to them. Commissioner Ed Braddy referred to a program in Tucson, Ariz., in which houses that violate codes are tagged with a red circle.
"There will be some who will respond to some sort of light shining on them from the public," said Braddy, who also said city staff should look into listing code violators on its Web site.
Jeff Adelson can be reached at 352-374-5095 or adelsoj@ gvillesun.com

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