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Jacksonville closes book on disability rights dispute with settlement bills

On Tuesday night, the Jacksonville City Council passed a trio of bills designed to close the books on a conflict between neighborhood activists in Springfield, disability rights groups, and ultimately, the federal Department of Justice.

Two Jacksonville City Council bills (2017-68 and 2017-69) closed the book on an issue that first emerged during the Alvin Brown administration.

To recap: in 2014, Ability Housing set out to renovate an apartment building in Springfield to create 12 units of housing for the chronically homeless and disabled.

The planning director balked, likening the proposed use to that of an assisted living facility. Soon thereafter, the Department of Justice, Disability Florida, and Ability Housing sued.

The proposed settlement ensures that the city not discriminate via zoning against those with disabilities, including via so-called zoning “overlays” such as Springfield and other neighborhoods have, and allows Ability Housing to become eligible for Jacksonville Journey funding again.

Ability Housing and Disability Rights Florida will receive $400,000 and $25,000 respectively per the settlement. Jacksonville also will be required to grant $1.5 million for the development of permanent supportive housing for people with disabilities, after a competitive grant process including Ability Housing.

A rewrite of a related zoning bill, 2017-36, passed by a 16-3 margin, along with the two aforementioned bills Tuesday evening.

Per the bill summary: “As it pertains to the City Zoning Code, language will be revised to provide, among other things, for such reasonable accommodation requests to be considered as a request for an administrative deviation, identify a permanent supportive housing use and define the term ‘supportive services’, and to authorize group care homes and residential treatment facilities by exception in Springfield.”

 

Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a working journalist for over two decades, with bylines in national and local publications alike on subjects ranging from pop music to national and global politics. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014, and has held a column in Jacksonville, Florida's Folio Weekly for two decades. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." Gancarski is a frequent presence on Jacksonville television and radio, including fill-in slots on WJCT-FM's award-winning talk show "First Coast Connect." He can be reached at a.g.gancarski@gmail.com.

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