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Springfield Residents Urge City To Take Ability Housing Fight To Court

Ryan Benk

Updated 2/28 3:06 p.m.

Jacksonville City Council members heard concerns Monday from Springfield residents about a proposed legal settlement between the city and two disability-rights nonprofits.

The settlement, in part, mandates the city approve a permit for an apartment complex for the disabled and chronically homeless,  at 139 Cottage Ave., or face a battle in court.

Councilman Reggie Gaffney said he called the meeting to give his constituents a chance to explain to his colleagues why they oppose the settlement.

He said he has nothing against disabled people, but the settlement process lacked community input and he thinks the city could win if it took the case to court.

“I’ve been told by a couple of my constituents that individuals now want to move out of Springfield because of just being afraid that if the city would allow this overlay to (be reclassified), … the community is afraid ... (it) may be saturated like it was 30 years ago with a bunch of (assisted living facilities)and special needs housing,” he said.

The U.S. Justice Department found Springfield’s historic overlay violates the Americans with Disabilities Act by banning certain group homes from operating.

City lawyers then hammered out a $2 million deal with non-profit groups Disability Rights Florida and Ability Housing that includes legal fees, plus a grant for permanent supportive housing, and changes to the zoning code. Residents say the changes could have far-reaching, negative implications on the neighborhood’s vitality.

Not so, said city lawyer Jason Teale.

“It’s definitely not fundamentally upending the overlay. Really all this does is it removes the ban on those special uses that pertain to housing for persons with disabilities.”

The Planning Commission approved the zoning changes last week.

City Council must approve the settlement by the end of April or face the nonprofits and DOJ in court.

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

EDITOR'S NOTE: Reference to the property at 139 Cottage Ave. has been changed to "an apartment complex for the disabled and chronically homeless" based on our previous report.

Ryan Benk is a former WJCT News reporter who joined the station in 2015 after working as a news researcher and reporter for NPR affiliate WFSU in Tallahassee.