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Opponents Lose Rezoning Fight At Bannerman And Bull Headley

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leoncountyfl.gov
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Developers are working on a plan to build out nearly 31 acres at Bannerman and Bull Headley roads in northeast Leon County.

The county commission recently approved rezoning there that was met with dozens of public comments like these: 

“Eight homes per acre, give me a damn break. How the hell do you do that?”

“Keep high density and commercial development where the infrastructure supports it.” 

“I’m not against development. I know it’s gonna happen. It needs to happen. But this is borderline irresponsible.”  

The zoning change is legal - and called for -  in the county’s land use plan. It opens the land up to commercial and retail development, and it allows other residential construction, like apartments.

The developer, Cawthon Family Properties, also wants to build more than two hundred homes on small lots.

30-year-old Gina Kahn says she has struggled to find decent, affordable housing on the north side of town, where she grew up.

“Many people have a story like mine. We went to Florida State. We were educated here, but we left because of resources,” she told commissioners during the last public hearing. “So, I think this neighborhood could be a gateway for people like me, and I support this effort.”

Leon County Commissioner Bryan Desloge moved to approve the zoning change for his district. Desloge has lived in the Bradfordville area since the mid 1980’s, when Thomasville Road was two lanes and the county had just 160-thousand residents.

“We’ve got just shy of 300,000 people now, and the people go somewhere, and frankly, they’re going to the Northeast because it is a desirable place,” Desloge said during the meeting. “We have good schools. We have good stuff going on, and I don’t think this is going to destroy it. But I think as somebody else pointed out, it’s not fair to say I’ve got a house and we don’t want you to have one.”

That comment drew groans from the audience.

The rezoning passed 6 to 1. The holdout was Commissioner John Dailey, a Tallahassee mayoral candidate, who said he would rather see Bannerman widened before building more housing.

Dr. Pamela Hall is an ecologist and analyst who’s been involved in several legal challenges regarding land use issues in Leon County. She’s won and lost in court, and she’s learned a lot in the process. WFSU’s Gina Jordan sat down with Hall to get some perspective about the Bannerman/Bull Headley rezoning.

WFSU: Proponents say this area needs more affordable housing and this development will be an answer to that. Do you think that’s true?

HALL: It’s possible. In general, if you put houses on smaller lots or you adjoin houses in townhouses or duplexes, they are a lower cost per unit. The definition of affordability is different depending upon what section of town you’re in. I contend that it’s dominated by the school district.

WFSU: Let’s go to the road traffic. Several complaints there – all that traffic generated by an apartment complex and homes being built eight per acre. Are they right?

HALL: Well no, they have to take a couple of things into consideration. One is, the absolute zoning for thirty acres is eight units per acre. No one is going to accomplish that because there are so many other requirements, including the stormwater...

That means that, as a neighborhood, you’re not really sure what’s going to happen, and it’s that lack of surety that is disconcerting. If you don’t want development around you, do not ask for the road to be widened.

WFSU: Residents say this will disturb the quality of life they bought into. They like their large lots. They like their trees. The schools are strong, and those schools are now full. Essentially we hear, I’m not against development - but not in my backyard.

HALL: Okay, so let’s parse that. First, the schools do an analysis to figure out if they have room. They can make decent estimates on how many people are coming in depending upon the type of development. Let’s think of what it also means…

There’s an implication that the people who live in houses not like mine are going to disrupt the quality of my life because they aren’t like me. I don’t think your quality of life is disturbed because someone builds a house that’s different than yours on a different side lot a little ways away from you.

Click below to hear more of the interview with Pam Hall.