Planning Commission Approves Springfield Zoning Changes Following DOJ Lawsuit

Feb 23, 2017

Credit Ray Hollister / WJCT News

Jacksonville’s Planning Commission unanimously approved zoning changes Thursday for Springfield that pave the way for an apartment complex for the disabled and chronically homeless.

The approval is the first step in a settlement agreement between the city, two disability-rights nonprofits and the U.S. Department of Justice.

Disability Rights Florida and Jacksonville-based Ability Housing sued after Ability Housing’s permit request to build the complex in Springfield was rejected.

Ability Housing was awarded a $1.4 million grant in March 2014 to rehabilitate a 12-unit apartment building at 139 Cottage Ave. After the initial permit and appeal were rejected the DOJ opened an investigation in December 2015.

A year later, the federal agency filed its own lawsuit, saying the city provision preventing the permit violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.  

The three parties reached a tentative settlement agreement, but it must be approved by City Council to prevent a court battle.

The settlement is expected to cost Jacksonville taxpayers close to $2 million in fines, fees and a mandated $1.5 million grant for permanent supportive housing.

Reporter Ryan Benk can be reached at rbenk@wjct.org, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter @RyanMichaelBenk.