Leon County Approves Zoning Change for Northwoods Baptist Church Property with 5-2 Vote

Leon County Approves Zoning Change for Northwoods Baptist Church Property with 5-2 Vote

On February 21st, the Leon County Commission voted 5-2 to approve an ordinance to change the zoning classification of 32.18 acres located at 3762 Capital Circle NW from Residential Acre (RA) to Single-Family Detached Residential (R-2). 

Previously, Northwoods Baptist Church requested the zoning to be changed to Residential District (R-3), which would have allowed the entire site to have the same zoning — 8 units per acre.

On June 7th 2022, the Planning Commission approved the church’s request for rezoning the land to R-3 and found the request consistent with the Comprehensive Plan. However, the church subsequently requested the rezoning to be R-2 which is a lower density that allows 4.84 units pre acre.

Northwoods Baptist Church owns an 85.31-acre parcel that has two different low-density residential zoning districts. The majority of the property is zoned single and two family residential (R-3). Currently, the 32.18 portion of the land is zoned Residential Acre (RA) which allows 1 unit per acre. The only housing type allowed in R-2 is single family.

During the meeting, Commissioner Rick Minor stated, “Whatever the result of the vote tonight, some people will be upset.” He also noted how difficult it was to make his decision to vote against staff recommendations stating, “This is probably one of the most difficult decisions I’ve had to make.” Minor continued, “The neighbors are deeply concerned with the effects of that request, and they have the right to speak up and make those concerns known and advocate for their positions.”

Commissioner Brian O’Keefe believes that the neighbors’ preference and what they planned their home and neighbors to be like, among other things were not factored into this zoning decision.

Commissioner Brian Welch stated, “I don’t have the luxury of subjectivity in this position. I have to look at the facts as they lie.” He went on to say, “As frustrating as it may be for the impacted residents, the applicant has rights as well.” He continued stating, “We are not providing competent and substantial evidence. I think we are putting our county attorney and our legal staff and potentially our board in legal jeopardy. Welch also spoke on how he thought the comments from the neighbors came from an emotional place, and pointed out that he doesn’t agree with the neighbors’ fears of rising crime as a result of a zoning change.

13 Responses to "Leon County Approves Zoning Change for Northwoods Baptist Church Property with 5-2 Vote"

  1. @A Skeptic. I totally agree with your comment. The “fix” is always in by the time the public even hears about a story. Do you think the developer in this case has a name that begins with the letter “G?”

  2. If anyone is interested, beside me, Brian Welch and House Rep. Alison Tant will be at Ology Brewing Co. tonight from 6pm to 8pm for a Town Hall type gathering…….. unless they Cancel at the last minute AGAIN, it was supposed to happen last month. It is located at 2910 Kerry Forest Parkway. In the Shopping Center close to Thomasville Rd.

  3. The development decisions in Tallahassee have had a horrendous effect regarding aesthetically and environmentally. Case in point the Boulos development on the Parkway and Weelaunee to name two. Add into that some ugly buildings, no buffers, no setbacks, high crime, corruption and sewage spills, yet… we have a new communications director at the city to accommodate the mayor’s next reelection campaign cycle and the advancement of the Bethel ridiculousness. I didn’t vote these PR nuts in so whoever did it’s on you. Votes smarter and you get what you vote for.

  4. When you buy a home in a neighborhood that is adjacent to vacant land that you or your neighborhood don’t own, there is no guarantee what will eventually be built on that vacant property. The neighbors always lose in these disputes because they don’t own the adjacent property.

    @Pat A., my guess is the neighbors were expecting the adjacent vacant land to be developed like their neighborhood – 1 unit per acre. With this zoning change, it will be developed with 4 or 5 units per acre. I believe that’s the conflict.

  5. @Commonsense — the church doesn’t have to find a buyer, there’s been a developer waiting in the wings for the zoning change to take place.

    The church didn’t request these changes hoping to entice a developer/buyer, they’ve been working with one and seeking the changes that the developer wants.

  6. Fear not about the prices of high-density homes (sarcasm here). As a frame of reference, look at how much they are asking for the high density, single car garage, shotgun homes at Fletcher Crossing off Pedrick on the east side of the Crapital District. They want over 300k?!! And, they are selling. The Green Acres subdivision right next door is asking around 400k for their homes which barely have a front yard, have no backyards and are practically on top of each other. Yes, they can cram more homes per acre and ask a premium for them, sadly.

  7. @ A Skeptic: I will have to wait and see. I have yet to see any new Low Income Homes get built in the last Decade, in fact, I haven’t seen any new Homes START at under $200K in the last 5 Years.

  8. Now that rezoning the land has been approved, it’ll be put up for sale. When a developer buys it, he’ll immediately file to have it rezoned for an even a higher density, perhaps including apartment buildings. Of course the “rubber-stamp” County Commission will approve the requested higher density rezoning.

    Then, the next step by the developer is to file his project as a Planned Unit Development (PUD). That allows him to avoid meeting various normal restrictions like building set-backs, structure height, width of buffer-zones and encroachment into wetlands, things like that.

    The final development will be filled with as many residential dwellings as allowed to maximize the developer’s profit. Of course with absolutely no consideration for the impact on the surrounding neighborhoods or insufficient infrastructure roads and schools.

    The above description of the “game” developers play is right out of the Ghazvini Play Book. A good example is currently in the construction phase out on the Cawthorn property right next to the Summerbrooke development at Bannerman and Bull Headley Roads if you care to see it in action.

  9. @David — the intent has been to build 4 to 8 homes per acre. Those are NOT $250K properties. They’ll wind up as starter homes and investment properties. They’ll slowly appreciate and their real value will be determined by how much Section 8 rental they become.

    I’ve watched most of the zoning controversies over the years after being on the wrong end of one. Back in the 80s, Collins Brothers Construction wanted to rezone some property in Huntington Woods in a way that ran counter to everything else in the neighborhood. 45′ lots, 30′ wide “garden homes” with 1′ setbacks from the property line. Much of the neighborhood attended the meeting and watched Collins’ dog-and-pony show. Much of what was presented was clearly false, but the commission wouldn’t call them out on it or even ask for a better explanation. When the citizens’ turn came up, they asked, but the commission insisted that the questions be directed to the board, not the developer. The board didn’t have the answers and wouldn’t ask Collins, either.

    One of the board members, Ed Fernald, was also a member of the Board of Regents. My company was involved in a $5M computer sale to FSU that required his office’s signature. I was in a no-win situation since I didn’t want to call out Ed and jeopardize the sale and I certainly didn’t want the proposed changes a block from my house.

    Needless to say, the change was approved despite all of the pie-in-the-sky claims by Collins.

    I’ve watched these proceedings with curiosity ever since. The details change, but not the results.

  10. Without checking Property Appraiser records, I hope this church is currently paying real estate taxes on this land and it isn’t considered a tax-free church site?

    And, if past due property taxes are part of the debt of this church, I pray the church is going to pay back all property taxes due first with some of the dollars received from selling the land?

  11. I’ve read this story over and over and google the zoning codes….I don’t understand what is the conflict between neighbors and the zoning change.

  12. If these new Homes are going to be like all the other New Homes that have been built in the past few Years, I don’t think Crime will rise as these Homes will be priced at $250K and up. When I heard about this earlier, I knew the Neighbors had no chance. I would liked to have seen the Staff negotiate with the Buyer to at least make it 2 Homes per Acre, 3 at the most.

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