Ruling on homeless units appealed
Florida Times Union, 2014-06-14
A nonprofit developer planning a Springfield apartment building for homeless people is appealing a ruling by Jacksonville's planning director that it would violate neighborhood zoning rules.
"We believe the interpretation ... is incorrect," said written remarks from Shannon Nazworth , executive director of Ability Housing of Northeast Florida . "[The building on] Cottage Avenue is currently a 12-unit apartment building, and after our purchase will remain a 12-unit apartment building."
The appeal will be brought to the city's Planning Commission , an unpaid, appointed board, but Nazworth said she doesn't know when it will be heard.
Planning Director Calvin Burney concluded last month that Ability's plan for the building violated a special rule, called a zoning overlay, drafted for Springfield around 2000.
The overlay banned the creation of any new rooming houses, group homes, halfway houses or similar buildings in the neighborhood, which had been used for decades as a dumping ground for the poor and the down and out.
Critics said Ability's plan to seek out chronically homeless people and rent them studio apartments - paid for through a state grant - made the building comparable to a group home.
Burney noted that Ability's grant application to the Florida Housing Finance Corp. said residents are expected to be somehow disabled, most having mental illnesses or histories of psychiatric hospitalization.
But a lawyer representing Ability, Tim Franklin , argued this week that Burney's interpretation of the overlay runs against the federal Fair Housing Act, which forbids discrimination against people with mental disabilities.
Nazworth said Ability isn't challenging the legality of the overlay, but takes issue with Burney's reading of it. Steve Patterson : (904) 359-4263